150-Mile Integrated Pipeline Ensures Reliable Water Supply for Growing Population
Contractors Work Through Many Connections and Miles of Pipe for the $2.3B Integrated Pipeline Project
Numerous areas of the world struggle today with the possibility of running out of water. To ensure a reliable water supply for their customers far into the future, the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) headquartered in Fort Worth and the City of Dallas Water Utilities (DWU) partnered on a new $2.3 billion Integrated Pipeline (IPL) now under construction.
Although the existing water supply meets current demands, by the year 2060 a projected 10 million residents – more than double the population now served – will need water from TRWD and DWU. To prepare for that growth, both agencies began planning their own pipelines. When they discovered the similarities in their routes, they partnered to finance, design, build, and operate one pipeline. Over the life of the project, their combined planning, resource sharing, and programing efforts are estimated to save $500 million in capital expenses and $1 billion in energy costs.
Once complete in 2025, the 150-mile IPL will bring 350 million gallons of raw water per day from East Texas lakes to residents in North Central Texas. The new infrastructure will also increase the reliability of the water supply. The project’s integrated water delivery transmission system will extend from Lake Palestine near Tyler, Texas, into Tarrant County. In addition to pipeline, contractors will build three new lake pump stations and three new booster pump stations.
“The new system will be parallel and cross-connecting with the existing system,” said Wesley Cleveland, TRWD’s Project Director. “It will tie into existing pipeline and supplement it.”
TRWD’s water supply already comes from Cedar Creek Lake in Kaufman and Henderson Counties and Richland-Chambers Lake in Navarro and Freestone Counties, but the available water exceeds the capacity of existing pipelines. The IPL will draw from both of those lakes, as well as DWU’s water supply at Lake Palestine.
“DWU is funding this with us, but TRWD will own and operate the line,” said Ed Weaver, TRWD’s Assistant Project Manager. “Dallas will have reserve capacity of 150 mgd [million gallons per day] in the system.”
Coordinating 150 Miles of Construction
The most challenging part of the IPL project came at the beginning, Weaver said. “This project has a lot of moving parts, parallel projects, and professional services. We’re trying to manage all that and standardize design specifications so that when we take over the operations and maintenance, it all works together. We have 10 design firms coordinating standard specs and details.”
Getting everything right in the initial phase made the rest of the project easier. “Construction appears to be a mass undertaking, but we have good contractors,” Cleveland said. “It’s easier to manage contracts well if you provide them with good drawings and specifications.”
The first IPL construction contract was awarded in March 2014. At the end of last year, contracts for active construction totaled $613 million.
The primary shared portion of the IPL – starting near Mansfield, Texas, and heading east to Cedar Creek Lake – consists of 108-inch diameter pipe and will carry the full 350 mgd. Eighty-four-inch pipe from Mansfield west to Benbrook Lake will carry 200 mgd of water for TRWD. Another section of 84-inch pipe from Lake Palestine west to Cedar Creek Lake will transport 150 mgd for Dallas.
The main pipeline stretching to Cedar Creek Lake is scheduled for completion in 2020. The section from there to Lake Palestine will take a little longer. “When the drought broke in 2015 and everything filled up, Dallas got some breathing room to re-evaluate how they’ll connect to their treatment plants,” Weaver said.
Construction of two parts for TRWD – the western-most section into Tarrant County and the section extending south to Richland-Chambers Lake – will be demand-driven, Weaver added. “We have the alignments completed and we’re in the process of acquiring the right-of-way. When demand picks up, we can execute a construction contract and get to work.”
Making the System Go
Thalle Midlothian Partners (a joint venture between Thalle Construction Company of Hillsborough, North Carolina, and Ark Contracting Services of Kennedale, Texas) is completing the largest single dollar contract of the IPL totaling $143 million. BAR Constructors, Inc., of Lancaster, Texas, has been awarded over $100 million in contracts. (See “Key Project Personnel” sidebar for other firms involved in the project.)
“All the facilities that BAR is doing are critical to how the system operates,” Weaver said. “They’re tying into live systems with the stuff to make it go.”
BAR began with a $53.3 million contract to construct 12.9 miles of 108-inch pipeline for Section 15-2 in Ellis County. Major flooding in 2015 interrupted the progress. “We were going through cultivated fields and pastures,” related Mark Smith, BAR’s Risk Manager. “When you get a flood out there, you turn into a pumping company, not a construction company.”
Crews finished that section of pipeline in 2017. BAR also completed a $9.4 million bypass pipeline in Kennedale, Texas, and a $10.5 million interconnect in Midlothian, Texas, in 2017. They started a $13.6 million pressure-reducing station in Kennedale last May and completed 40 percent so far. Last month they began construction of a $1.1 million substation at Cedar Creek Lake.
In late 2016, BAR started work on the Joint Cedar Creek Intake, a $19.8 million project for the pump station that will provide 277 mgd peak future capacity to the IPL. Half the work for the project will be completed in the dry and the other half in the wet.
Crews first worked from an existing peninsula. “Eventually it will all get dug out into the lake and we’ll complete the excavation from barges,” said Bryan Hignight, BAR’s Lead Estimator. “The peninsula will be turned into the intake for this pump station.”
BAR expects to finish work for this contract by early next year. “Right now we’re just forming and pouring a lot of concrete,” Hignight said. “It’s a deep structure and very tall. We’ve got some walls approaching 60 feet from the existing ground to the bottom of our slab.”
Soil conditions complicated the excavation. “There’s a lot of sugar sand down there, so we constantly fought water,” Smith said. “We had to build a slurry wall around the whole thing.”
Four years into the IPL project, “It’s been great for contractors doing work in Texas,” Smith said. “The competitive, sealed proposal process allows the IPL team to pick who they think is most qualified to do the work, and not just the low bidder. It’s also kept a lot of people in work. If you want a job in North Texas in this industry, you can get one.”
In fact, Smith cited the labor shortage as one of the biggest challenges. “We’ve used every recruiting service there is, plus word-of-mouth.”
As a charter member of the Texas Water Infrastructure Network (TxWIN) – a statewide industry association dedicated to addressing water infrastructure design and construction issues – BAR works with other contractors, subcontractors, vendors, and suppliers to promote best practices and value for public dollars spent on water infrastructure.
“It’s our industry; let’s do what we can to improve it,” said Smith, a current Board Member and past Executive President of TxWIN.
Striving for best practices allowed BAR to achieve an impressive standard in their IPL work: At the beginning of January, with 335,473 man-hours worked on the project, BAR employees experienced just two lost work days. “That’s an amazing testament to our employees and our field leaders here,” Smith said.
Key Project Personnel
- Owner – Tarrant Regional Water District, Fort Worth
- Development Partner – City of Dallas Water Utilities
Companies Awarded Major Contracts:
- BAR Constructors, Inc., Lancaster, Texas – Section 15-2, JCC1, pressure reduction station where Section 12 ties into existing line, bypass pipeline, and interconnect
- Thalle Midlothian Partners (joint venture between Thalle Construction Company of Hillsborough, North Carolina, and Ark Contracting Services, Kennedale, Texas) – Sections 12, 13, 17, and 18
- IPL Partners (venture between Oscar Renda Contracting, Southland Contracting, and Johnson Brothers Corporation), Roanoke, Texas – Sections 10 and 11 and tunnel under Trinity River
- Garney Construction, Wylie, Texas – Sections 14 and 15-1