Inspection puts Fairview culinary spring line at top of priority list
By Suzanne Dean
FAIRVIEW—The Fairview City Council will hold a special meeting Wednesday night (after press time) to consider awarding an engineering contract for rebuilding the town’s main water pipeline.
The meeting is the culmination of concerns that came to light a little more than three months ago when Justin Jackson, the city water superintendent, and Logan Ludvigson, his assistant, did something that hasn’t been done in memory.
They walked the full length of the so-called spring line, the pipeline that brings water from the city’s four culinary springs in Fairview Canyon to two connected water tanks near the mouth of the canyon. The line supplies approximately 50 percent of Fairview’s culinary water.
“There were no obvious signs of water loss,” Jackson told the city council in October when he reported on his examination of the line. “…That doesn’t mean the walk was good.”
The spring line starts approximately parallel to the U.S. Forest Service boundary several miles up the canyon and, through various twists and turns, drops 13,500 feet before it reaches its terminus.
During their hike through rough terrain, fallen trees and across the stream multiple times, Jackson and Ludvigson found all kinds of problems.
They found the pipeline crossed the main Fairview Canyon stream four times. At each crossing point, the pipe ran through elevated concrete or wood pillars.
The above-ground sections of pipe are vulnerable because trees can fall on them and bend or break pipes, Mayor David Taylor said in an interview Tuesday.
And every winter, he said, one or two cars slide off the Fairview Canyon road and careen down the slope. There are currently four cars in the ravine on the south side of the road that have simply been abandoned because it’s too hard to get them back up to the road. A careening car could break a pipe, especially at a crossing.
At one crossing built in 1983, the pipe was sagging in the middle between its supports. The cables that were supposed to be holding it taut to the support structure “are not providing any support at all,” Jackson told the city council.
The lowest stream crossing was built in 1939. “Nothing’s been done to it since 1939,” Jackson said. The pipe has “paper-thin walls” and “is not very strong.” And trees have fallen on it.
“I do not know why we cross the river four times,” Jackson told the city council. “We cross it, then we cross back, then we come down and little further and cross it…and come down and cross it again. Every time we cross we are exposed to danger.”
At one place, not at a crossing, there was a joint in the pipe. A tree had fallen on it, causing the pipe to bend.
“I honestly in my opinion, have no idea how that compression joint could be holding that pipe together,” Jackson told the council. “There’s nothing on this planet that says it should be held together. That’s probably the No. 1 issue with the spring line.”
Jackson also reported that because of drought conditions, the volume of water being delivered through the spring line had dropped 21 percent over the previous three years.
“There’s technology that didn’t exist in 1983 (when the newest section of the pipe was installed) that would enable the city to get a lot more water out of the spring line than it’s getting now,” Jackson said.
Taylor said city officials have talked about fixing the spring line for 30 years. But when he heard Jackson’s report, and especially when he saw the photos Jackson took, “all of a sudden this moved to No. 1 on the hit parade” (the roster of city projects).
The spring line examination coincided with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation launching its Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant (ECWAG) program to help communities hit by drought.
Because water delivery from the spring line has dropped so significantly, Fairview, by all appearances, meets the grant criteria.
But the money is “emergency” funds and probably will only be available for a while. “I don’t want to be left out,” Taylor said. “I feel an urgency to move sooner rather than later.”
At the October meeting, the council voted to issue a request-for-proposal to engineering firms with experience in water systems. The scope of work was devising a plan to redevelop the four springs and completely rebuilding the spring line.
Three engineering firms have responded. The mayor said he expected the council to award the design contract to one of the firms at the special meeting on Wednesday.
The total project is expected to run between $1 and $1.5 million. Taylor said if the city doesn’t get the full amount required through an ECWAG grant, it will seek other grants and loans.