SAK Construction SPR Busch Stadium

SAK Construction Pulls Off a ‘Triple Play’ Downriver From Busch Stadium

Located along the east bank of the Mississippi River in St. Clair and Monroe Counties, Ill., lies a tranquil 20-mile stretch of farmland protected by an urban design levee. Its location is just across the river and a bit downstream from the ballpark where the local professional baseball team — the St. Louis Cardinals — have had many championship moments.

This farmland, home to the Prairie DuPont & Fish Lake Levee Districts, is a pristine field of dreams that looks ready to house another baseball heaven. However, lying below ground, the aging levee was in desperate need of repair as the CMP storm drainage system had deteriorated due to age and the flood conditions that exist almost yearly along the Mississippi River.

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Much like the aging veteran pitcher trying to secure the win, the levee — completed in 1951 — was doing its best to continue to protect the area from flooding. The levee was constructed to drain excess water from the local farmland into the Mississippi River and included a gatewell to stop a rising river from backwashing into the fields. The downstream lines ultimately drained into three exit pipes and into the river. Past disasters, such as the Great Flood of 1993 that hit the entire St. Louis region and less severe weather patterns that led to the frequently rising rivers, caused the levee gatewell and the surrounding corrugated metal pipe to significantly deteriorate. Sections of the levee were in danger of failing during flood conditions and needed rehabilitation, but they couldn’t be taken out of service during the process. Lane Corp., the general contractor that was awarded the levee rehab project, needed to find a non-disruptive structural solution that could fix the pipes in live flow (but non-flood) conditions.

SAK Construction SPR Mississippi River Levee

The aging and failing levee before SAK Construction’s SPR solution is installed.

SAK Construction, of O’Fallon, Mo. (located in the St. Louis region), was contacted by Lane to see if its patented Spiral Wound Rehabilitation solution, also known as SPR, could address the problem. SPR utilizes steel-reinforced, interlocking PVC profile strips that are grouted in place and the installation equipment uses standard access points without site excavation. After the wound SPR material traverses the length of the pipe, the annular space is then grouted with a special high-strength grout and the pipe is ready for service. The result is a structural pipe with a PVC invert within the existing culvert. Most importantly, SPR can be installed in live flow conditions.

After careful consideration, Lane decided it was the perfect solution for this project as it accomplished all of the project goals. The general contractor awarded the project to SAK, the SPR third-party stamped design and submittals were provided, and a Notice to Proceed was granted in September 2014 with SAK mobilizing after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The challenge for this project, as stated before, was to keep the system functioning while performing the work. Because of the flexibility of the SPR installation process, the levee drainage system was able to continue operating during the rehabilitation project. SAK started installing SPR in the upstream sections of the pipe and during the winding process diverted the flow among the three 84-in. corrugated metal drainage pipe sections until each 150-lf section was wound, bulkheads and bracing installed, and structural grouting commenced. Like a perfect “triple play,” the rotation of the work from line to line finished the repairs one by one and solved the problems for the levee.

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The project was not without its issues. The flexible installation benefits of the SPR solution — a major reason it was selected — were leveraged twice during the project as the defiant Mississippi river flooded to back up the drain pipes.

SAK Construction Mississippi River Levee Repair

SAK started installing SPR in the upstream sections of the pipe and during the winding process diverted the flow among the three 84-in. corrugated metal drainage pipe sections until each 150-lf section was wound, bulkheads and bracing installed, and structural grouting commenced.

This required the Levee District to close the gates within the structure, temporarily halting the project. Both times the project was stopped, the pipe section was only partially completed. Luckily, the SPR process could be interrupted because the waters from the river rose to top the pipes at levels fully submerging the downstream sections. Unlike other rehabilitation options considered for the situation, the SPR winding machine was simply removed and the lined pipes rode out the high water while the river was at flood stage.

“Installation flexibility by our crews is a huge advantage,” said Cary Shaw, business development leader, spiral wound markets at SAK Construction. “In this case, the ability to pull out our winding machine quickly was invaluable when informed of an approaching storm.”  Depending on the project removal times can vary, but in this case SAK was able to have the SPR winding machine removed in less than an hour.

In an area that is well-known for its annual storms and the potential flooding that often accompanies them, Columbia, Ill., (the town on the front lines of the levee) is also a region deep-rooted in heritage with a long history of battling the threatening waters of the Mississippi as well as other threats.  Originally settled by Frenchmen in the mid-17th century, Columbia was taken over by the British until the Revolutionary War forced them out and it became a permanent settlement for early colonial American settlers.  It was then that Columbia was plotted out as a town and built on the bluffs several hundred feet above sea level to help protect against the annual flooding threats from the river. However, those farmlands surrounding the big river became a key source of commerce and pride for the area so great planning and expense was taken to protect them.

“We take a lot of pride in our work” said Cory Street, project manager at SAK. “We understand that, while we may not personally meet all of the people in the regions where we work, there is a sense of obligation to make sure that we do the best job possible to protect the families and their resources in the area.”

Founded in January 2006, SAK Construction is fueled by an experienced and knowledgeable leadership team known throughout the industry.  Led by industry veterans Tom Kalishman, Jerry Shaw, and legendary trenchless pioneer Bob Affholder, SAK (whose namesake originated from its three founding leaders) has consistently been at the cutting edge of new solutions such as SPR, and with their headquarters located in the St. Louis region they are well aware of the many challenges created by the surrounding rivers.

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Many stories have been written about the power of the mighty Mississippi. Those who live in Columbia have found a way to live along its shores. Modern engineering and technology has helped to protect them and has fought a battle against the elements for many years. The levee faced the scenario seen many times before by the region’s beloved St. Louis Cardinals…”bottom of the ninth, nobody out, bases loaded” by the opposing team.

The team needed just three more outs to clinch that elusive championship against a formidable opponent. Much like in the famous poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer, the Mighty Mississippi was threatening to win and destroy the hopes of many. You could almost hear the legendary words of the classic poem being spoken, “…mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.”  But in this case… “Mighty Casey” turned out to be the Mighty Mississippi and the lead that was being protected was that 20-mile stretch of farmland protected by the levee. The region needed its own version of a triple play, the rehabilitation of those three drain pipes, or else the river’s victory would become a reality.

Perhaps the modified version of the poem would read something like this: With a region on the edge of their seats, the people of Columbia stood tall on the mound and gleamed down at the Mighty Mississippi as he advanced.  Armed with treacherous waters aided by the vicious storms of the mid-western spring, the mighty ole river’s fierce blows against the aged levee came up short. Once again “there was no joy in Mudville” as SAK pulled off the perfect triple play.
Scott Linke is marketing manager at SAK Construction.
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