BY STEPHEN J. PYTAK
Published: February 13, 2013
Icy water from the Indian Run Dam near Pottsville cascaded down the recently constructed spillway Tuesday.
Patrick M. Caulfield, executive director of the Schuylkill County Municipal Authority, stared up at it with fascination.
"It's the first time we've seen water flow down it since it was built," Caulfield said as he drove over to the spillway in Branch Township.
Indian Run was at 100 percent capacity, at 773 feet above sea level, Tuesday afternoon. The overflow sent a steady, yet shallow, stream rushing down the concrete steps to the Little Indian Run Dam.
It's been a historic week for the dam, which is SCMA's largest. Not only has the new spillway gotten its first taste of overflow, but a group which represents engineering excellence in Pennsylvania honored the local engineering firm that designed the $5.9 million renovation project.
Alfred Benesch & Co., Pottsville, was honored at The Diamond Awards, hosted by the American Council for Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, at a gala held Feb. 7 at The Hotel Hershey.
"Alfred Benesch won an honor award in Category G: Water Resources," Melissa A. Carroll, executive assistant with the council, Harrisburg, said Tuesday.
According to Caulfield and Sean Reilly, Benesch resident project representative, this is the first time Benesch received a Diamond award and it's the first time an engineering firm working for SCMA has been honored with one.
Jennifer M. Kowalonek, a Benesch project manager, said Monday she believed Benesch was given the honor for a few reasons.
"There were many foreseen and unforeseen obstacles throughout the development and construction of the project. But the Indian Run Project, while extremely complex, was still completed with relative ease and close to $1.3 million under budget," Kowalonek said.
The Indian Run Dam impounds a 49.5-acre, 488-million gallon reservoir in Branch Township. The original construction of the dam was finished in 1926, and reconstruction of the spillway completed in 1935, Caulfield said.
"We draw about a million gallons a day from it. It serves the west end of Pottsville and Norwegian Township," Caulfield said.
In August 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection listed Indian Run as an "unsafe dam" in accordance with Pennsylvania Dam Safety Regulations.
"This was based on uncontrolled seepage at the dam site, lack of embankment drainage, inadequate spillway capacity, and deterioration of the spillway and discharge channel," Caulfield said Tuesday.
Alfred Benesch & Co. led the design team. Schnabel Engineering Associates, West Chester, offered assistance. And Performance Construction Services, Inc., a division of Quandel Construction, Minersville, was hired as the general contractor.
"The rehabilitation project addressed spillway capacity and seepage issues at the dam," Caulfield said.
The former 60-foot-wide spillway was replaced with a 90-foot wide spillway with a 400-foot long chute, Caulfield said.
Construction also included stabilization to the downstream slope, embankment seepage control features, modification to the outlet works and other minor dam modifications, Caulfield said.
"Beside the fact that the spillway was a 400-feet long and 90-feet wide, massive concrete structure and all embankment work was completed with a nearly full pool of water in the reservoir, construction was completed during two major storm events in 2011 without skipping a beat in construction," Kowalonek said.
The project cost estimate was $7,196,000, Caulfield said.
"Early on, funding was a major concern," Kowalonek said.
However, SCMA acquired 80 percent of the funding through grants and the remaining 20 percent through a low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, Harrisburg.
"Therefore, no customer rates were increased as a result of the project," Kowalonek said.
The Indian Run Dam Rehabilitation Project was completed in 2012, according to the SCMA website at scmawater.com.
The final project cost was $5,948,000, about $1.3 million under budget, according to Caulfield.
"We still have a loan to fund these projects, so it's just a little less to pay back," Caulfield said.
The American Council for Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg is "the largest statewide organization of engineers engaged in the practice of consulting engineering," according to its website at acecpa.org.
Its members include "more than 147 independent engineering firms throughout the commonwealth. These firms employ engineers, land surveyors, scientists, technicians, or other professionals and administrative support personnel," according to the site.
"There are 125 member firms eligible in the state that could apply for the Diamond Awards and an endless number of projects that would meet the qualification standards for the application. Our Indian Run Dam project with the Schuylkill County Municipal Authority was a unique and worthy project and was an easy choice to submit," Kowalonek said.
Every year, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania hosts the Diamond Awards for Engineering Excellence. It's a competition "recognizing engineering firms for projects that demonstrate a high degree of achievement, value and innovation," according to the award application submitted by SCMA.
There are 12 awards categories: studies, research and consulting engineering services; building/technology systems; structural systems; surveying and mapping technology; environmental; water and stormwater; water resources; transportation; special projects; small projects; energy; and industrial and manufacturing processes and facilities, according to the application.
"A distinguished panel of judges is convened to critique the projects. These professionals have backgrounds in engineering, architecture, state and federal government, media, academia and the military," according to the application.
"Projects from across the globe are rated on the basis of: uniqueness and originality; future value to the engineering profession and perception by the public; social, economic, and sustainable development considerations; complexity; and successful fulfillment of client/owner's needs, including schedule and budget," according to the application.
SCMA runs six dams. Over the past 12 years, SCMA has worked to upgrade four of them, Indian Run and three others:
- Pine Run Reservoir, north of Saint Clair. A $2.5 million rehabilitation project was completed in 2010.
- Mount Laurel Dam Rehabilitation Project, budgeted at $3.5 million, began in 2012 and is scheduled to be completed later this year. "It's about 80 percent complete," Kowalonek said.
- The Kaufman Dam Rehabilitation Project is scheduled to begin in 2013. It will cost about $3 million. And SCMA is expected to bid the project this week, Caulfield said.
SCMA also manages Eisenhuth Dam and Wolf Creek Dam. The authority serves water to over 30,000 Schuylkill County residents in all or portions of 22 different municipalities, according to its website.