Sitka marked a major milestone today (Monday, 10-27-14): construction on the Blue Lake dam is done.
Contractors this morning poured the final layer of concrete onto the top of the dam, which now rises 83 feet above its original level
Jessica Stockel is a project assistant with McMillen LLC, the firm coordinating the project.
“This is a more intricate pour,” said Stockel, standing at the site of the dam with a hard hat and yellow vest. “This is just finishing off the last little bit to bring it to 100% complete.”
The final pour was a delicate business. Workers with the contractor Barnard Construction operated a crane the length of a football field, with a giant bucket of concrete swinging at its end. The bucket was gently lowered down to a crew waiting on the dam itself, who guided the pour — like a set of pastry chefs piping a layer of frosting on a 223 foot cake.
For those working on the project, the moment was bittersweet. Stockel says that a strong sense of camaraderie has developed among the crew, who have been together for the past two years.
“Some people may have seen us in the Alaska Day parade. I think there’s an excitement around this project and everyone can feel it. And now that we’re wrapping up, there’s a nostalgia and we’re getting a little bit sad to leave.”
Now that construction is done, there are just a few more steps before the entire hydro project is complete. The water treatment plant must be commissioned, the powerhouse inspected, and the new tunnel flushed, which is expected to happen on Tuesday.
Testing of the water treatment plant will also take place this week. If all goes well, Sitka will switch its water source back to Blue Lake by the end of next week (or earlier).
The full project is expected to be complete in Jan. 2015, one month ahead of schedule.