Fixing Damage Caused By a Flood
This summer, as Washington suffered a drought that reduced flows of rivers and streams in the state to historic lows and ignited dozens wildfires, Morgan & Son found itself repairing an old timber road along the Taneum Creek in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on the eastern slope of the Cascade Range.
The narrow road, now owned by the U.S. Forest Service, had been damaged a few years back when floodwaters roared through the area, washing out a rock retaining wall installed to protect its banks and taking out a traffic lane.
Tanuem Creek doesn’t look like much – especially during a summer drought. But during the spring melt its waters, which flow down through the Yakima and Columbia Rivers into the Pacific Ocean, can race through here at 3,000 cubic feet per second. And for spawning salmon and trout, it’s Lovers Lane.
The fix required Morgan & Son to stabilize the creek’s banks by dismantling what was left of the old retaining wall and installing a new one.
The first order of business was dewatering the creek by diverting its waters, which were flowing through at 10 to 15 cubic feet per second despite the drought.
“We’ve done it before of course,” Dan says. “But every project is different. Sometimes it makes more sense to pipe and pump the diverted water. But we were going to be in here for a long enough time that it didn’t make sense to pump – it was too costly. So we went with the diversion.”
The lighter than normal winter snowpack, coupled with the driest May-to-July on record and soaring summer temperatures, would prove to be a double-edged sword. While it made the dewatering job a little easier, the wildfires it ignited added to the costs – and complexity – of the project.
The heavy lifting on the site was performed by two hydraulic excavators: a Cat 325 that Dan has relied on for years and a one-year-old Cat 316.
“It’s an impressive machine,” Dan says of the 316, which he bought after initially leasing it for six months from NC Machinery, his local Cat dealer.
“We can do a lot work with the 316 that, in the past, we would have needed at least a 320 or 325 to do – and it does it with a lot better fuel efficiency, which is great. And of course the operators love it because it’s got air conditioning and a stereo and a back camera -- all that good stuff. Sometimes I can’t get them out of it.”
By the first week of September, despite the complications, Morgan and his crew were out of the creek bed, now reinforced with a new gabion wall, and wrapping up work on the restored road.
But a smaller job up the creek that the company hoped to tackle had to be put on hold because of the fire danger.
“I bid this job last July and I had all winter to worry about it. So it should have been a piece of cake,” Dan says.
“But no matter how much you plan in this business, things change and you have to adapt.”