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For the week of Mar. 1 through Mar. 7, 2000

Hospital performs boring operations

Express Staff Writer

Jack Seburn and his (amazing, yet boring...) pneumatic hammer"I hope to impress and amaze him," Jack Seburn said of county engineer Jim Koonce’s 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. Luke’s hospital has begun preliminary groundbreaking work to bore under the Big Wood River and the county recreation district’s bike path.

On Monday, MASCO Inc. from Boise, and it’s 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. Luke’s 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. Luke’s 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.

A boring site : on the bike path, just north of McHanvilleIn a press release Monday, St. Luke’s 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. Luke’s had not provided needed information about the potential environmental effects of trenching.

The clock is ticking for St. Luke’s, 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 hospital’s 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 the project.

"Well, I hope to impress and amaze him," contractor Seburn said Monday.

Water and sewer district personnel have characterized boring as a "cowboy-type endeavor," apparently referring to the cocksure nature of the contractors.

In November, St. Luke’s 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. Luke’s has left very little time to secure permits and contractors to perform a trenching operation before Fish and Game’s April 30 moratorium takes effect.

When asked if St. Luke’s 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 lowest—a major benefit for the workers.


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