Mortenson – Bridge Creek pipeline replacement

In the past three years, the municipal drinking water in Bend, Ore., has been recognized as the best tasting in the Pacific Northwest by the American Water Works Association. The water — which is sourced mainly from a surface watershed as well as a deep well facility – has been noted as being clean, crisp and having a nice aftertaste by judges during an annual association contest.

The high quality of Bend’s water supply will soon improve even further. Construction manager Mortenson Construction earlier this year completed placement of a 10-mile, 30-inch pipeline that will carry water from the watershed, known as Bridge Creek, through the Deschutes National Forest and a local neighborhood to a water chlorination facility. 

“We’re managing the entire project for the city based on a guaranteed maximum price [of $55 million] and also bidding out certain packages of work,” says Tom Paul, general manager of Mortenson’s environmental division. The company is also self-performing concrete work. 

The pipeline, which broke ground in March 2014, replaces a 12-inch and 14-inch pipeline originally installed in the 1920s and 1950s that had deteriorated over time. The new pipeline – which runs entirely within the right-of-way of a new access road completed by the U.S. Forest Service earlier this year – is constructed from a combination of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and mortar-lined coated steel. 

With the pipeline in place, Mortenson is now turning its attention toward constructing a new membrane treatment plant, Paul says. Work on the facility is expected to conclude in early 2016.

The new membrane filtration system will bring the city up to EPA-mandated enhanced treatment standards. The project also includes adding screening at the water intake facility – originally built in 1926 – to protect fish and new features to control the rate water is diverted, keeping more water for fish in Bridge and nearby Tumalo creeks.

Overcoming Challenges

The placement of the new pipeline this year marked a significant milestone in the project, which has started and stopped multiple times since Mortenson was contracted to take on the work in 2010. 

One significant challenge to the project came from a local land conservation group that objected to the city’s issuance of a special use permit allowing pipeline construction in the national forest. 

“We took the case to federal court and the city prevailed,” Paul says. “During the course of the lawsuit, there were a few times we had to stop as a result of injunctions.”

Once federal, state and local permits were received and work on the pipeline commenced, Mortenson encountered additional challenges. The pipeline is located near a portion of the forest that is susceptible to fires, which has forced evacuations. 

The project’s location in a national forest has also necessitated archaeological monitoring. “Every time we pulled a bucket of dirt out of the ground we had to have an archaeologist there,” Paul adds. 

The Outback facility is 1,000 feet lower than the Bridge Creek watershed, a topographic shift that raises the pressure of the water traveling through the pipeline. To offset this difference in elevation, the city is building a raw water control structure to reduce the pressure of water entering the facility, Paul says.

A Wide Reach

In addition to self-performing concrete work, Mortenson is working with a number of trade partners including mechanical, electrical and pipeline contractors. “We have a very collaborative relationship with all of our trade partners,” Paul says. “We plan together and manage the project as a seamless group.”

Mortenson also has a close relationship with the city of Bend. The contractor helped the city save more than $1 million in construction costs by procuring the raw material for the pipeline early in the construction process. “We feel the relationship with the customer is paramount, and the most important thing you can have,” Paul says. “We’re not just a contractor, but one of the most trusted partners the city has ever had.”

Water and infrastructure-related projects are just one area of expertise for Mortenson. The company is proficient in commercial and institutional construction. Its higher-profile projects include the $828 million U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the future home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. “We do everything from higher education onward,” Paul says. “We’re far from being a company that does just one thing.” 

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