Hospital performs boring operations
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
"I hope to impress and amaze him," Jack
Seburn said of county engineer Jim Koonces lack of faith over plans to bore water
and sewer lines under the Big Wood River. Seburn hopes to begin operating his 18"
pneumatic hammer on Wednesday.
After months of wrangling for permits and flip-flopping contractors, the
new St. Lukes hospital has begun preliminary groundbreaking work to bore under the
Big Wood River and the county recreation districts bike path.
On Monday, MASCO Inc. from Boise, and its Greenleaf, Idaho-based
subcontractor, North American Construction, laid out equipment and surveyed the work area
in anticipation of beginning an initial bore under the bike path on Wednesday, with
additional bores under the river to begin in the coming weeks, according to North American
owner Jack Seburn.
The work follows nearly three months of silence by St. Lukes on a
project that has brought criticism from the county recreation district, from the county
engineer and from the Sun Valley Sewer and Water District.
St. Lukes has had permits to bore under the river and the bike path
since before November. But in December, citing potentially insurmountable obstacles with
boring, the hospital asked the county to approve a trenching permit in addition to the
boring permit in case, among other reasons, boring was impossible to complete.
Trenching, a much cheaper method of installing the utilities than boring,
has a higher chance of succeeding than boring, according to contractors.
In a press release Monday, St. Lukes estimated costs for
boring at $650,000, about $350,000 more than trenching.
However, any trenching work would have to be completed before the end of
April, when the Idaho Fish and Game department puts a moratorium on riverbed excavation
work to protect spawning fish. The moratorium lasts until early fall.
County commissioners denied the trenching application, because, they said,
St. Lukes had not provided needed information about the potential environmental
effects of trenching.
The clock is ticking for St. Lukes, which must have sewer and water
lines installed under the river to meet fire department water flow requirements before
combustible construction can begin at the hospital.
The area between the river and the north end of the hospital construction
site is the final missing link in hospitals water and sewer connections.
Despite the contractors confidence they will succeed with the
unusual method of boring the utilities under the river, some are skeptical it can be done.
County Engineer Jim Koonce has said that he will be "impressed and
amazed" if the boring works, and that he would "hate to foot the bill" for
"Well, I hope to impress and amaze him," contractor Seburn said
Water and sewer district personnel have characterized boring as a
"cowboy-type endeavor," apparently referring to the cocksure nature of the
In November, St. Lukes planner John Gaeddert, in a long list of
reasons detailing why boring was not a viable option for the hospital, said, "Testing
indicates a high possibility of bore failure, due to numerous rocks near the river."
If utilities cannot be bored under the river, St. Lukes has left
very little time to secure permits and contractors to perform a trenching operation before
Fish and Games April 30 moratorium takes effect.
When asked if St. Lukes has a back-up plan in the event boring
fails, hospital public relations officer Hillary Furlong said, "We are very confident
it will be successful. I think our engineers have done good background work."
Furlong said contractors have waited until March to begin operations
because now is when both river water and groundwater levels are lowesta major
benefit for the workers.