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Education Engineers get a course in Texas Pipes 101

Engineers get a course in Texas Pipes 101

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

A. Lee Graham lgraham@bizpress.net

Engineering and land studies are nearly complete for a 150-mile pipeline that is expected to bring water from East Texas to Fort Worth and Dallas. Engineers gathered for the June 23-26 American Society of Civil Engineers conference in Fort Worth to get the latest updates for the $2.3 billion Integrated Pipeline Project spearheaded by the Tarrant Regional Water District and the city of Dallas. That a water – not an oil and gas – pipeline would spur discussion in a town synonymous with hydraulic fracturing was not lost on many attendees rushing to and from Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel conference rooms. Many of those local and out-of-state professionals listened attentively as a geologist overseeing geotechnical aspects of the project provided an update. Though excited by the 350 million gallons of water a day expected to reach Dallas-Fort Worth through the pipeline, he was nonplused by Texas topography given its lack of volcanoes and sizable earthquakes, for example. “We’ve got the biggest ranches, the biggest oil wells and the biggest cowboy hats. But I’ve gotta tell you, the geology is kind of a disappointment,” said Mark Wilkerson, whose Fugro Consultants Inc. has spent three years poring over soil consistency, soft rock, clay and hundreds of other details before construction on the pipeline is expected to begin in early 2014. “The geotechnical phase is almost done,” Wilkerson confirmed. “Construction for the first segment will start as early as 2014.” When complete, the pipeline will run from Lake Palestine to Benbrook Lake, with connections to Cedar Creek and Richland-Chambers reservoirs. It will integrate the water district’s existing pipeline into the Dallas system, providing up to 350 million additional gallons of raw water daily to North Central Texas. But before the first drop hits the pipe, reams of research documents and studies have been completed that most customers will never see. Among Wilkerson’s primary duties was creating a land profile for property along the pipeline route. Boring locations, geographic faults and pipeline alignments were just a few considerations in determining optimum routing. Fugro engineers created maps with colors corresponding to different types of clay, among other geologic components. “We had quite a team working together on this,” said Wilkerson, referring to KBR, Freese and Nichols Inc., Brown and Gay Engineers Inc., MWH Global, and Black & Veatch, among others. The results made the effort worthwhile, Wilkerson said. Smaller in scope was a $10.6 million storm water study conducted for the city of Fort Worth. All 1,000 miles of drainage pipe underlying the city were located and mapped for future reference. The study was approved by the city council in 2008 and funded through its stormwater utility fund after weather-related flash flooding in 2004 brought attention to city infrastructure. “It allows Fort Worth to better manage storm water runoff while protecting the environment,” said Doug Smith, principal project manager with Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. By knowing where every pipe, potential clog location and other element is located, Smith said, officials can better respond to emergencies as well as handle routine maintenance more effectively. The project required crews to survey city infrastructure, with the result providing a geographic information system (GIS) map of every drainage pipe under Fort Worth. But some things supersede infrastructure knowledge, Smith said, referring to crews often working in high-traffic zones. “The most important thing to us is they go home at night,” Smith said. “They can miss some data. We can get it later.”  

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