McArdle Grading Co. Builds Massive $17M Dam Near Omaha
A $17 million earthen dam being built in Elkhorn, Nebraska, by McArdle Grading Co., will provide flood control for Omaha and downstream along West Papillion Creek, transforming former corn fields into a 225-acre lake surrounded by 475 acres of parkland at Dam Site 15A.
"It will be a recreation lake, a no-wake lake for anglers," says Barry McArdle, vice president, McArdle Grading. "It will be a fishing lake with other improvements."
The Papillion Creek Watershed Partnership, made up of nine local governments in the watershed, hired McArdle Grading to build the dam, now about 40 percent complete. The dam will hold floodwaters after heavy rains, protecting downstream areas. Once open, the City of Omaha will maintain the parkland around the dam. The park will include restrooms, 5.5 miles of recreational trails, a boat ramp, picnic structures and access roads.
In 2010, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, the City of Omaha and members of the Papillion Creek Watershed Partnership developed the preliminary design for Dam Site 15A. HDR Engineering in Omaha provided engineering services. This dam is part of a larger program of stormwater management in the creek's watershed. The plan included 12 water quality basins and 15 regional detention basins. McArdle has completed other projects in the program.
Once Dam Site 15A is finished, the partnership expects the project will improve water quality, introduce an aquatic ecosystem with fisheries and enhance the wildlife habitat.
"The lake will create a new aquatic ecosystem with underwater fishery enhancements to create habitat and varying water depths for different species of fish," McArdle says.
The 1,750-foot long earthen main dam, with a top width of 20 feet, will be about 40 feet above the flood plain. McArdle began construction on the project in April 2015, after the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District has obtained the final piece of land needed for the project. Completion is expected in 2017. Work includes relocating an existing road and bridge.
"It was a tight time frame for the amount of work, so we had to put together a good team of subs to get the work done," McArdle says. "As far as managing an entire project, this is the biggest one we have ever taken on."
Even with some rain delays, work has progressed smoothly.
"It's a lot of work and not super easy, but I have good subs, good superintendents and good operators," McArdle says.
A Multi-Generational Company
Robert "Scoop" McArdle founded the company in 1953 by with a single bulldozer. Barry is a member of the third generation working at the firm. It works on commercial and residential sites in the greater Omaha area. Murray McArdle, President, manages one to two crews in the North Dakota oil fields.
McArdle attributes the company's longevity to a good work ethic and treating its people and subcontractors right. In an industry with high turnover, McArdle proudly states the company retains its employees.
"We want to be the best and do it better and faster with the best people," McArdle says. "As a family business, we are very hands on. Nothing is done without our knowing about it or approving it. We work well as a family."
McArdle employs about 70 people and operates about 100 pieces of equipment. The company is using scrapers and backhoes at the dam project and hauling the dirt.
"We get the latest and greatest when we buy," McArdle says.
Most of the equipment is Caterpillar machinery, from NMC of Omaha, which has served Nebraska contractors since 1938, with a focus on service and developing strong relationships. McArdle said, he appreciates NMC's support, parts availability and reliable equipment.
"Ivan Rogers with NMC has been our salesman for more than 30 years," McArdle said. "We also have worked with many other NMC employees for many years in parts and service, which has helped us form a solid relationship with NMC. This has helped us ensure maximum uptime and productivity with our equipment to get jobs done and be successful."
Current equipment employs Trimble GPS technology, from SITECH Midplains, to ensure greater accuracy. It allows easy access to find sand drains, without the need to bring in surveyors.
Moving Dirt on Site
McArdle crews will move 2.1 million cubic yards at Dam Site 15A, including digging a mote under the trees to create different elevations of fish habitat.
McArdle excavated 3 feet below ground for the dam. An inspection trench goes down 7 feet. The company spent two months just on the excavation, before getting back to preconstruction ground elevation and building the embankments. The dirt for the dam comes from borrow areas around the property and from fishery excavations throughout the pool area.
The dam includes a chimney drain, which prevents horizontal flow along the stratified layers.
"A chimney drain is used in most earth dams and is basically a vertical wall of sand anywhere from 3 to 5 feet thick, that sits in the middle of the dam," McArdle says. "It's main purpose is to accept any water that may come through the front of the dam and drain it down to the bottom of the dam and then out the back side through the blanket drain. By doing this, it protects the integrity of the back side of the dam by not allowing any water intrusion any further than halfway through the dam."
The project entails tremendous teamwork and coordination with a variety of subcontractors.
Pink Grading of Omaha has helped with the material hauling on the dam and roadway embankments.
Swain Construction of Omaha demolished an existing bridge and is handling paving of the parking lots for the recreational area.
TAB Construction of Omaha is providing concrete for an intake structure that will maintain a normal pool elevation of 1,169 feet with the use of a concrete spillway and a 400-foot-wide auxiliary spillway.
In addition to the dam, subcontractor Roloff Construction of Omaha is placing sewer lines to accommodate future development, which might include houses and commercial areas.
JMN Construction of Omaha will install a bridge at the site.
"We have good subs on this project," McArdle concluded. "With the right people, equipment and subs, you can get a lot of work done."