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Ephraim learns tunnel project has

faced delays, but underway again

 

By James Tilson

Staff writer

Apr. 5, 2018

 

EPHRAIM—An engineer working on Ephraim’s tunnel and new culinary well projects updated the city council on their progress last week.

Layne Jensen, engineer with Franson Civil Engineers, spoke to the Ephraim City Council on Wednesday, March 21, to discuss the work order presented to the city for continuation of the work on the tunnel and new culinary well this year.

The original contract with the contractor responsible for the tunnel excavation specified completion within two years, yet the tunnel is still not complete after two years of work by the contractor.

Councilman Greg Boothe asked Jensen, “Why did this take so long?”

Jensen said when the contractor dug the tunnel in year one, they thought they had finished their excavation work.

But when they came back at the beginning of the second season, they found they had to clear more tunnel than they thought, and they also had to realign the tunnel and track: “I think they underestimated the effort necessary.”

Jensen assured the council that by the end of the second season, however, the contractor had moved pipe sections all the way through the tunnel. In short, “they had learned their lesson.”

Jensen cautioned that trying to enforce the original contract would be very expensive.

Doing so would negate the original contract and possibly bankrupt the contractor. The contractor, in turn, would turn to litigation to avoid losing so much money. The litigation would be expensive for the city, and there would be no resolution of the issue any time soon.

Instead, according to Jensen, the contractor proposed to pay for any new engineering costs for the tunnel.

Bryan Kimball, city engineer for Ephraim, added the contractor would also bill a reduced price for water pipe, down to $440,000 from $750,000.

And this year, Jensen added, the contractor is planning on starting work on the tunnel in June instead of August, as they have done the past two summers.

Jensen noted the very low snow pack will have an impact on their being able to start earlier this year.

Councilman John Scott asked Jensen, “Will we be here in a year? Will the contractor abandon the work?”

Jensen said the work already done made him confident the remaining work will be done this year. And if the contractor were to abandon the project before completion, Jensen said the city could pull the contractor’s “project bond.” Doing so would prevent the contractor getting work anywhere else.

Jensen next addressed the upcoming well project.

Jensen affirmed that the city’s application to the Utah Division of Drinking Water had been approved.

The city will not know about its application to WaterSMART, a Bureau of Reclamation program, for at least another two months.

While the terms from the WaterSMART program may be more favorable than those from the Division of Drinking Water, the WaterSMART funding will not be available in time for the city to begin working on the well this year.

In the meantime, Jensen said the city can use the funding from the Division of Drinking Water with no penalty from them if the city does not use the entire funding.