Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Water authority sees progress on highway crossing


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Ramsay — The Gogebic Range Water Authority board received some good news Thursday regarding highway construction that will require moving of water mains.

The water authority engineer, Darren Pionk of C2AE, updated the board on the U.S. 2 reconstruction through Bessemer that will require the water authority to adjust the depth and placement of some water mains in the Marshalek Road area. A virtual meeting with Michigan Department of Transportation engineers addressed major concerns over the length of eight-inch pipe to be lowered and the amount of time that the Ironwood Township transmission line would be out of service.

“We had six people working on the computer at the same time,” Pionk said.

The engineers were able to adjust the reduction of hills and slopes to minimize the impact on potentially exposing water mains in the areas where the roadway will be lowered and to where the line crosses the road, he said. If the water authority has the fittings ready to go at the time of construction the water shutoff should be less than 24 hours when service would come from the city of Bessemer.

“This minimizes the impact 90 to 95% by redesigning it on the fly with MDOT,” he said. “There should be no impact on Ironwood Township at all.”

In the water authority administrator’s report to the board, G. Jean Verbos said three permits were filed Thursday for the work to replace a water main that was broken during bridge replacement construction across a creek near the ski lodge on Blackjack Road. Workers were driving sheet pilings when the water main was struck in late June.

The permit applications were filed with Gogebic County Road Commission, the entity replacing the bridge, and two more permits with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy involving the stream crossing.

The length of line to be replaced is around 330 feet, according to Pionk. The engineer’s estimate of $72,000 includes the water main replacement and the boring.

Answering questions of the board, Verbos said that the water main might not have been constructed correctly in 1983 and that it would be corrected with the repair. In July, Pionk said the water main, which was built by another entity and transitioned later to the GRWA, was at least 13 feet off from the original installation drawings where it crossed the stream at the bridge.

Verbos said that the legal matter to determine responsibility for the damage to the water main will be addressed after construction. As of now, the GRWA has the incorrect construction drawings but precedent also shows that in past projects the GRWA engineers were informed and present during work around water mains, which was not the case with the bridge.

The cost of the work in the meantime will come from two operation and maintenance accounts for Indianhead and Blackjack that were created for emergency repairs and improvements to the system.

“So, we have to be prepared in case something happens and in this case it’s a repair,” Verbos said.

A consequence to the emergency work will delay the purchase and installation of a standby generator for the Blackjack water pumping station, she said.

Other board discussion addressed the water authority exploration into the process that would eventually reduce its board membership from 11 to five. Verbos said there was concern from some membership that it would reduce the voice of the community membership.

Bessemer city manager Charly Loper, who was present as an alternate water authority member, said the city council prefers to have two members on the board to help with discussion and board education on matters.

Verbos said the water authority board is likely the largest in the Upper Peninsula and only the Iron County, Wisconsin, board is larger because it represents so many entities.

The municipalities represented on the water authority include the charter township of Ironwood, and the townships of Bessemer and Wakefield, and the cities of Bessemer and Wakefield, making a five-member board more efficient for business and easier to manage, she said.

Verbos said she is working on revising partial bylaws for the water authority to assist in board operation and efficiency. The articles of incorporation allow the bylaws as a rules for internal operation but are not mandatory, she said.

In other business, the water authority received the city of Wakefield wholesale water annual increase resolution. The rate increase from $1.273 to $1.303 per 1,000 gallons is effective Sept. 1.