Cordova Chronicles: Power Creek repairs completed on schedule

Rock and fill for the Power Creek Project project came from the pit one mile out Whitshed Road, with 40 foot low-boy tractor-trailers making an average of eight trips per day throughout July and August 2019 to haul 29,000 yards of material to construction site.  Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times
Rock and fill for the Power Creek Project project came from the pit one mile out Whitshed Road, with 40 foot low-boy tractor-trailers making an average of eight trips per day throughout July and August 2019 to haul 29,000 yards of material to construction site. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/for The Cordova Times

These days, completion of construction projects on schedule seem to be a rarity. Yet Cordova’s Wilson Construction did exactly that, wrapping up a $2 million repair job to the far end of Power Creek on Sept. 15.

The stretch of gravel road beyond the salmon spawning area at Mile 6 on the seven-mile byway that winds along the edge of Lake Eyak has been plagued by washouts and flooding for the past several years, endangering the power lines which run under the road to deliver electricity to Cordova from the Cordova Electric Cooperative hydro-project in the Power Creek basin.

Work on repairing a 4,200-foot stretch of road began in late June with the falling of a number of trees along the road. Because of truckloads of rock and gravel being hauled on the narrow and winding road, much of it was closed for safety purposes throughout the week from then until mid-September. 

“We had 40-foot side and belly dumpers, as well as dump trucks, shuttling back and forth in convoys during much of the project, and had to drive on the left (inside) side of the road both ways,” Wilson Construction superintendent John Baenen said. “The outside edge of the road was just too soft and dangerous.”

Weather and access to a nearby rock quarry were big factors in the project running on schedule.

“The dry stretch of weather we had in July and August really helped,” Baenen said. “If it had rained, we would have had to deal with flooding in the area where we were doing the repairs, and that would have slowed us down.”

“Plus, being able to get the rock and fill from the pit a mile out Whitshed Road shortened our haul time,” Baenen said. “Credit to pit owners Eagle Contracting and Dave and Don Sjostedt for that one.”

Wilson’s trucks moved 29,000 yards of rip-rap rock and fill to the project site, in an estimated 1,800 truck loads throughout 45 days of hauling. Most of the trucks averaged eight to nine trips per day.

The level of the road was raised 7 to 9 feet, depending on location. A large, heavy waterproof membrane was placed along the riverside edge of the road, with rip-rap rock then placed on top of that, to prevent future flooding and erosion. 

The actual width of the road was only 18 feet, which created some challenges for vehicles going back and forth. 

“We were able to turn around near the upper end of the road, but at times had to move the front-end loaders that were putting the rock in place off the road so the trucks could get by,” Baenen said.

Despite the narrow road and tight working conditions, the project was completed on time, without any mishaps.

The easy-going Baenen was very happy with that.

“Safety is always a number one concern,” he said. “The crew did a great job. About the only complaint I heard was about the dust. In Cordova. Can you imagine that?”