The water intake project is getting closer to completion

The water intake project that will provide Estevan with better quality water is progressing rapidly.

Now that the cold weather has settled in the contractors could proceed with work at the Rafferty Dam itself. They are now completing phase two and starting phase three of the water intake project that will eventually shift Estevan’s primary water source from Boundary Dam to Rafferty Dam.

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The second phase includes the construction of the water intake structure and the pump house. It was slated to start in September but was delayed by excess precipitation.

The third phase of the project assumes the line getting connected to the intake structure.

The contractors are currently getting ready for the installation of the water pipe and then putting the shaft 20 metres down for the well to draw water out of the lake. They then will be setting up the equipment to haul the lines in and get everything hooked up for the pump house side.

There are 17 employees currently working at the Rafferty. The city tried to contract workers and machinery locally, however, some of the equipment used for the project is quite unique and is being shipped to the site from all over Canada.

Soon the number of people on-site will go up, as the divers will arrive to anchor and connect everything at the bottom of the lake. The barge that will deliver the intake screen to its location is already sitting on the water at the Rafferty marina. And when the pipeline is completed it will be anchored to 16 massive concrete stands and will be taken out and sunk to the bottom at the same time.

Prior to starting the project, the city has examined multiple samples of water in different areas of the Rafferty Dam. The current location was chosen as it was the bottom of the original river and had the best quality of water.

“It is a lot deeper than most water. There is not a whole lot of 20-metre-deep water lakes in Saskatchewan, so it’s quite unique for here, but it provides us really good water quality,” said Shane Bucsis, who is the water and wastewater manager for the City of Estevan.

The total pipeline will be just under 15 kilometres long and will carry the water from the intake at the Rafferty Dam to the Estevan Water Treatment Plant. The pipes will run under the ground following the roads. Over six kilometres of pipes are already laid along Highway 18 and all the way to the plant.

The current works have to be completed before April 10, to ensure that there is no interference with the environmental cycles and no disturbance to various species inhabiting the area, which was an obligatory requirement for the project.

“You are doing an environmental study where you are seeing what plants are out there and seeing if they are endangered or under protection, as well as you check for wildlife in the area to see if there is anything you need to do to mitigate. And that’s the main reason why we do it in the winter, so we are not affecting any of those,” said Bucsis.

Prior to proceeding with the project, the city also had to do a heritage study of land to make sure that they wouldn’t disturb any culturally sensitive areas.

When the project is completed the only visible changes in the area will be the service road going towards the pump house at the bank of the lake, the pump house itself and two special clean-out pipes at the Water Treatment Plant and at the Rafferty side. 

While proceeding with phase one, the city ran into some difficulties, which caused some extra expenses. However Bucsis said that the way they managed the budget, allowed them not just stay with the allocated funds, but actually save some money.

“We are looking at splitting up the project into three different parts. That’s why the first part of the pipeline is in. That’s why this is separate. It has brought down the cost. When we finally tie in the project, it should be significant savings,” said Bucsis. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like until we finish everything off. I'm hoping by the middle of December I should be able to put a price point on everything.”

The project received a third-third-third funding, which means that the money came in equal shares from the federal, provincial and municipal budgets. Originally it was slated to be finalized by spring 2019, but the decision to split it into three different parts increased the timelines. However, the city is still staying within the federal guidelines and is getting really close to the final stage.

“I’m excited for this phase of the project to get started and looking forward to being completed and switching over a row water source,” said Bucsis.

Even though the constrictions itself started just this past March, the whole project began five years ago. It’s planned to be completed in spring of 2020.

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