City employees begin Shadow Mountain water, sewer line assessment |

City employees begin Shadow Mountain water, sewer line assessment

Joe Moylan

A funding shortfall may keep Shadow Mountain capital improvement projects from beginning this year, but City of Craig officials are pushing forward nonetheless.

City employees recently began assessing Shadow Mountain's water and sewer mains to gauge how much of the subdivision's infrastructure needs to be replaced.

The Craig wastewater department employs a sophisticated piece of equipment in its evaluation of the lines — a robotic, track-driven crawler outfitted with a digital camera.

Craig Public Works Director Bill Earley said the department upgraded from VHS to digital about six years ago.

Although primarily used to diagnose problems in pipes, Earley said the crawler has been used extensively by department employees to compile a digital log of the more than 60 miles of sewer lines and 65 miles of water lines crisscrossing underneath Craig's streets.

The crawler is operated through a system of joysticks, dials and levers located in a control truck, Craig Wastewater Manager Carl Ray said. The truck also features computer software programs to display live camera footage and a hard drive for record keeping.

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The camera can be manipulated in any direction to examine every inch of the line, including sediment deposits on the floor of the pipe, consistency of PVC joints, and the condition of manhole covers high above the crawler at street level.

Because Shadow Mountain was intended to be a temporary subdivision to accommodate construction workers who built Craig Station in the 1970s, the neighborhood's infrastructure was not built to city codes.

The crawler is being utilized in that area to check for "egg-shaped" pipes, Ray said.

Egging refers to the oval shape PVC pipe can take over time, which is generally a sign of substandard materials.

"When a pipe begins to egg, it's usually a good sign that the line is about to fail," Earley said. "Line failure in Shadow Mountain, or anywhere else in Craig for that matter, would be catastrophic."

Earley hasn't viewed what he refers to as "dirty movies" from Shadow Mountain, but Ray confirmed Earley's fears Friday.

"We're beginning to see egg-shaped pipes," Ray said. "It was never expected to be a long-term subdivision, so the walls of the pipe they used out there are much thinner than what you would normally see around the city."

Capital improvements to Shadow Mountain, estimated to cost about $4 million, have been on the minds of both city and Moffat County officials for a number of months.

At budget time, the Moffat County Commission earmarked $2.5 million to upgrade the roads, curbs, gutters, and sidewalks.

But, city council members were unaware the county wanted to team up on Shadow Mountain and did not budget for its $1.5 million share for water and sewer line replacements.

The commission decided to give the city $500,000 to try to phase in a portion of the project this summer, but with more than $1 million still unfunded, city officials are hesitant to start a project they may not be able to complete.

Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said he has been looking into energy impact assistance funds and Community Development Block Grants offered through the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to help fund the rest of the city's share.

With the current economic environment, officials expect competition for those grants to be fierce.

However, rather than wait on DOLA, city officials decided to proceed with preliminary work at Shadow Mountain.

"DOLA favors projects that are shovel ready," Ferree said. "If we're going to win a grant, we have to be ready to go when the money comes in."

The county also has plans to conduct a preliminary assessment of Shadow Mountain, Moffat County Developmental Services Director Roy Tipton said.

"We have some engineering, survey and soil work to do," Tipton said. "We should have that done by mid-June.

"If DOLA comes through (for the city), we'll be ready to go."

Tipton is preparing to send out requests for proposals to engineering, survey and soil contractors. He expects prep work at Shadow Mountain to begin in a few weeks.

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“When a pipe begins to egg, it’s usually a good sign that the line is about to fail. Line failure in Shadow Mountain, or anywhere else in Craig for that matter, would be catastrophic.”

— Bill Earley, Craig public works director

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