Crew wrestles with Middle Fork water line repairs


News staff writers

December 20, 2006

Sleet pellets cascaded down one afternoon last week as workers for Middle Fork Irrigation District continued repairs on water lines damaged in the Nov. 7 flood.

Boy Merz clambered atop a section of culvert as high and as long in size as the semi-truck bed it sat upon. He rigged up a hook to chains encircling the pipe and signaled to the equipment operator. Once Merz was clear, Mike McCafferty plucked the culvert with his excavator and hoisted it off.

“It’s probably one of the biggest culverts we have put in,” said Dave Compton, manager for Middle Fork Irrigation District.

They have been working on repairing line for spring irrigation but also to meet a more pressing need of fire hydrants being off-line. Compton said there are about 20 rural fire hydrants in the Parkdale area that are dependent on power from one of their hydropower projects.

That line, along with their other two facilities, shut down when debris sluiced off the Eliot and Coe glaciers on Mount Hood. The debris flow gathered up boulders, rock, and trees along its path down Eliot Canyon.

The event caused between $900,000 and $1.4 million in damages for the district, which has also been losing $4,300 of daily revenue from its operations being shut down. Among the damage was a wipeout of 500-600 feet of 36-inch steel pipe in two separate sections. The pressure coming through the line that day crumpled the pipe as though it were a plastic straw.

“We replaced it with a high-density pipe that was more flexible,” he said.

Before crews could even reach the damaged lines, they had to spend two weeks clearing debris off the road. In some washed-out sections they made some temporary arrangements going around sections or driving atop river rock.

Further up the line toward Laurance Lake, equipment chirped in the background as Compton explained how the new high-density polyethylene pipe made repairs easier than steel. The material is lighter and can be maneuvered more easily into place than steel, which would have required an absolutely level surface before it could be welded in place. That would be hard to do in the body-deep mud crews are working in.

A section of the line where a bolted flange holds old pipe and new pipe together remained exposed down in a ditch. Compton explained that was so crews can see any possible leaks from pressure testing the pipe. He was pleased the crews have made such progress and credited their good working relationship with the Forest Service as part of it.

“They have allowed us to get done what we need to for repairs to happen,” he said.

While they are concerned about fixing line as well as delivering water to Parkdale orchardists, those dates are some time off.

“For us because we’re higher up in the watershed, we don’t generally start until mid-June but we have to be ready to provide (water),” he said.

Compton said if the weather turns drier, farmers start irrigating earlier. But they also hold water rights that the district must meet for its 420 users if requested to do so starting April 15.

“There is frost water, that’s usually earlier, and then they hold spray rights which are a year-round irrigation right,” Compton said.

He estimated their hydropower facility supplying the fire pumps would be back online Wednesday.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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