By Trevor Busch
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Work in preparation of an upcoming Chin Reservoir expansion is still underway, but it will be some time before locals and irrigators see any shovels in the ground.
“The Environmental Impact Assessment is one of the main tasks that is being worked on right now by the engineering team at Klohn Crippen Berger and MPE (Engineering). In addition there has been an ongoing drilling program to confirm geotechnical conditions at the proposed site for the new East Dam,” said David Westwood, general manager for the St. Mary River Irrigation District (SMRID). “As well there are continued investigations and preliminary design for the refurbishment of the West Dam outlet works and raising of the West Dam.”
The $133 million project will allow for the expansion of irrigated acres in SMRID and Raymond Irrigation District. The planned expansion could add over 200,000 irrigated acres to the two districts, and should catch the eye of value-added food processors in the region.
Westwood reports one aspect of the project could present more difficulties than was originally anticipated.
“The West Dam irrigation outlet was constructed by the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) and to refurbish or replace, we are finding that scope of work for that component of the project is much costlier and complicated than originally anticipated. So overall the reservoir expansion project is on-track but still in the preliminary stages, and still a couple of years out from construction.”
SMRID is currently involved in replacing the chute at the inlet to the reservoir, which is needed due to the age and condition of that infrastructure.
“The project was structured so that the contractor has two years to complete the work. The chute structure is being shifted south of the existing spillway, which mitigates risk associated with construction as work can take place during the irrigation season without interfering with irrigation and District operations,” said Westwood. “There had been some concerns about lowering the reservoir temporarily for construction but that happened naturally this past year due to drought conditions and high irrigation demand. The coffer dam construction at the toe of the chute is the key piece of construction that we wanted to do this year, with most of the concrete work expected to occur next summer. Some concrete work is anticipated to happen later this year at the base of the structure, with work extending into next year.”
“The design team at MPE and the contractor, Dennis Dirtworx, have both been great to work with and we are pleased with progress to date.”