Chris Carter of CB Earthworks directs the crane operator in laying new the 12-inch waterline as a permanent fix for the main waterline that broke in January. The City of Moab is replacing 400 feet of waterline at the bridge that goes over Pack Creek. [Kristin Millis/ Moab Sun News]

Traffic is closed on 400 East at the Pack Creek bridge until April 14 while crews complete the replacement of a main waterline that ruptured Jan. 8 during freezing temperatures. Traffic is still open to access the Grand County High School and area homes, but it is not possible to cross the bridge until repairs are completed.

All homes and businesses in the area have water, said Moab city engineer Rebecca Andrus.

Crews are installing approximately 400 feet of new waterline. An additional week was needed to allow the water main’s concrete conduit to cure.

The 400 East water line break required a week-long closure of the north-side arterial street in January. Residents on the south side of 400 East in the Minor Court and Rowena Court area were without water for about a week. The City of Moab spent about $20,000 on a contractor alone to temporarily fix that line.

The final estimate for the waterline replacement is over $98,000.

That does not include asphalt on the road.

“People will have to drive on gravel for a stretch,” Andrus said.

The 10-inch waterline that ruptured in January was one of three major waterlines into Moab. As the 400 East waterline was down, the waterline that flows into Moab through Mill Creek Dr. has taken additional stress.

Just as crews were able to temporarily fix the first break near the Pack Creek bridge on Saturday, Jan. 12, there was another waterline break that evening on 400 East near WabiSabi that affected Milt’s Stop and Eat, Dave’s Corner Market, Grand County High School and residents in the area. There was another break on Mill Creek Dr., south of Dave’s Corner Market on Feb. 2.

Due to the need to expedite the project, the city did not go through a prolonged bidding process.

Spring demands for water required getting the waterline fixed quickly.

“If we didn’t get it done soon, we were playing with fire literally,” Andrus said. “If there had been a fire incident – we could have had a catastrophe because of lack of water pressure.”

Andrus said it was crucial to have this waterline up and running.

“Hotels are ramping up,” Andrus said. “We have a fairly mild amount of water used in the winter, between tourism and irrigation it really amps up quickly in the spring.”

Moab residents use 32 million gallons a year. Commercial use is at 55 million gallons a year. Moab hotels alone, for indoor use only, use 8.9 million gallons a year.

The road on 400 East used to dip down into the creek bed before the bridge was built in the 1970s, as did the original water main. When the bridge was built, the water main wasn’t realigned as it should have been, Foster said.

Most of the contractors on the project were local: such as CB Earthworks and JIC. The city worked with engineering firm Bowen Collins, which had been involved in a recent flood study.

“They had a lot of background information we didn’t need to recreate,” Andrus said.

The city chose to abandon the original pipe that ran run the bridge by replacing it with 400 feet of new waterline that goes through the middle of the bridge.

Contractors had to drill a 20-inch hole through the bridge to allow for 18-inch casing that goes around the 12-inch waterline.

This required contracting with a Grand Junction company.

“No one has a 20-inch core drilling bit that can go through concrete,” Andrus said of Moab-area contractors. “They’re expensive. No one here has that.”

Andrus called the cut “beautiful.” She was worried that with a 20-inch cut there would little room for error, as it would only allow a one-inch of “float” around the pipe.

“It is nice and tight. It looks fantastic on there,” Andrus said.

The road on 400 East used to dip down into the creek bed before the bridge was built, as did the original water main. When the bridge was built, the water main wasn’t realigned as it should have been, said public works director Jeff Foster.

“We would have to drill through the abutments of the bridge in order to get it back intact. That will take a little effort. We dug down 15 feet and didn’t even get close to it,” Foster said. “It would have been better for them to have taken care of it at the time. Sometimes the things that are easiest aren’t the best.”

City staff and council acknowledged the city’s infrastructure as one of their top priorities this year at their annual visioning meeting on Feb. 8.

Andrus is working closely with Foster to analyze the city’s infrastructure in order to create a detailed asset management plan that would allow for the replacement of water and sewer lines over time.

“We’re looking at a total of 43 miles of waterlines,” Andrus said. “The total magnitude of it is significant. If we replaced every pipe in a 50 year time period – we would be replacing 4600 feet of pipe each year.”

That’s just short of one mile of pipe to replace each year.

That doesn’t include replacing 33 miles of aging sewer lines, or putting in storm drains. And in order to replace the water and sewer lines, roads will have to be dug up and replaced.

Andrus is now doing what she calls “culinary forensics” by researching city documents and pages of The Times-Independent to learn how and when pipes were laid over sixty years in order to assess which lines should take precedence in a long-term maintenance plan.

Andrus said that the several breaks on the Mill Creek Dr. water main suggests that this may be one of the first to consider replacing.

“It is at least sixty years old,” Andrus said. It’s getting beat up too much. It’s old. It wants to retire. We were joking it was volunteering to be replaced. Considering its use in the system, it is a very critical part of our system. The fact that it has had so many breaks it is one of the pipes to be on the top of the list.”