City water supply threatened by slide

January 25, 2012

"Kris Zorza and his crew did an absolutely phenomenal job in protecting the city's water system," said Bob Francis, Hood River city manager. "People might never know how important their work has been."

While the rest of us were digging out driveways and throwing out spoiled food from refrigerators on Jan. 23, Zorza's crew from Columbia Tree Service was protecting one of the city's most important resources.

According to Francis, city crews were inspecting the city water lines throughout the ice storm and found a landslide event in progress on the step banks of the Hood River below Riverdale Drive - directly threatening both the current 8-inch water main and the newly installed 24-inch line, which has yet to be put into service.

Francis said Mark Lago and Dave Smock of the city public works department knew whom to call.

"Our public works department does an amazing job but when there is extreme tree danger, we call in the experts," said Francis.

"We had to take out two large fir trees near the river and two on the upper slope," said Zorza, whose crew worked the emergency tree-felling operation on steep, ice-covered terrain in and around the slide. "The landslide had taken down some trees and the remaining trees were a threat to both lines."

The section of the lines in danger were those leading to the truss bridge which supports the lines across the Hood River. The crew first accessed the area from across the bridge via Riverside Drive.

"The trees were located in such as way that if one set went down they could've broken the 8-inch main waterline feeding the city. The other set would have fallen across the 24-inch pipe. We would have had to put more time and money into repairing that line before we even got it hooked up," said Francis. "Kris' team prevented a major break in the system. Our hats are off to them."

"Those were pretty extreme conditions," said Zorza, whose team also responded to 20 additional calls between noon and 4 p.m. on the same day. Four large firs were successfully felled and removed, each located within just a few feet of the water lines. "It was exciting to say the least," laughed Zorza.

The crew "had to leave the two lower firs on the banks of the river," according to Zorza because there was no way to pull the trees up the slope in the weather conditions.

The Columbia Tree Service crew fielded about 200 calls for downed trees throughout the ice storm, said Zorza. Other crew members on the emergency call for the city included: Kevin Mason, Tyler Wells and Jon Bryan.

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