Tough, Bold, Sharp & Tireless. That’s the team at Nicholson Construction as they stabilize the Prairie Du Sac Dam.
A floating barge with huge machines drill spectacularly deep holes! The crew works to assure the Prairie Du Sac Dam is spared a catastrophic failure due to the rotting wood timber. Tens of thousands of wood timbers in the foundation of the dam must be replaced, and in freezing temperatures! 984 micropiles require drilling across and through the dam. An incredibly unique project.
Every story starts somewhere. The stories of the personalities on this crew inspire those working hard out there and those who wonder about a career as a driller! The job isn’t for everyone, but for some, their toughness is as deep as the holes they drill.
My name is Than. We’re on a dam. Six Figures, No Suits, Watsonville.
Hi, my name is Josh Timmreck. I’m the project manager for Nicholson Construction out here at the Prairie Du Sac Dam. We’re installing micropiles across the dam as a means of, basically underpinning and stabilizing the dam from the original wood timbers that it’s founded on. There’s tens of thousands of wood timbers that the dam was originally built. And basically over time, some have deteriorated from the water, resulting in potential failure of the dam eventually, if they continue to erode.
We’re installing total 984 micropiles, to basically replace all the wooden timbers. And when we’re done, the design itself is set to where there’s no need for any soils, timber piles, anything else, it could completely be supported on these micropiles. About 18 degrees, so challenging today, versus our normal working conditions, but we’re working through it.
So a micropile, in it’s [inaudible 00:01:57], there’s several types. In this application, we’re using soil piles. So basically what we’re doing is a duplex method. There’s an outer drill string and a casing that gets drilled down to depth, and there’s an inner rod, it basically flushes all your cuttings back up through the drill. And then once it’s down to the tip elevation, we fill it with a neat cement grout. It’s basically just cement and water. Once that’s done, we set a center bar. In this case, it’s a number 24. So it’s a pretty big, three inch rebar, that’s going down the center full length. Once that’s set, we then pull up the casing, leaving 20 foot still in the ground.
Check, check 1, 2, 1, 2. I got bust out some Beasties or something.
We’ve drilled down, and we use a 20 foot starter casing with 10 teeth on it, continuous teeth cut through the overburden with a roller bit head. With the sun down, 35 feet until we hit the bottom of the gallery. And we just send another 60 feet after that. We’re about to enter the, what we call the gallery, which is the inner inside of the dam. We’ve cut a six by six opening into the dam rollway. WIll allow us access. Let’s go on in.
So here we are in the gallery on the west side, to see where the casein has come through the rollway of the dam. And then as the setting down, you’ll see a metal frame that the casein is being guided into the location of the micropile.
My name is Joseph Smotherman. I work for Nicholson construction. I’m a driller. These new drill rigs we’re getting nowadays are all remote control. So you have a whole bunch of switches. They all feel the same. Not like a regular drill, a good drill, its got a cab you can set in. We’re out in the elements all day long. The remote controls are nice because you can get closer to where you’re actually working, and see what you’re doing versus the cabs. You’re limited to your area you have to work in. With the remotes, you can get up there and actually see what you’re doing a whole lot better. You don’t have to trust anybody else, but yourself.
This job in particular is very unique. Well, the best of my knowledge and, and other people involved, this has never been done. You know, micropiles themselves aren’t the most unique type of construction. But to this scale, you know, 984 across the dam, drilling through the dam with several operations across it, that’s what really makes it unique versus a typical project.
Bars were, poses a couple of different things. I mean, obviously, you’ve got fall from heights, you’ve got water nearby. So you want to wear PFD’s. You’re on a floating surface with a fairly large piece of equipment, drilling through a dam in three different levels. You can easily become bound in any one of those levels. 35 feet through those levels, but in all total, 92 feet in depth. If the bar was to sway or move or be drifted off course, different challenges for sure to be watched for.
The team we have out here at Prairie du SAC, is Nicholson as a GC. We have a couple of other subcontractors doing small scopes of work. I mean, we are a pretty close family. A lot of these guys I’ve worked with on several projects. Even in the five years I’ve been with Nicholson, I’ve worked on probably five or six different jobs with most of these guys. So we have, you know, you get to know each other. It does become a pretty close knit group of guys.
And even afterwards, you know what, myself and a lot of guys, we have campers up at the campground and, you know, get together after work, making group dinners and talk, you know, 30 minutes of work afterwards. And then we shut her off and it’s back to, you know, life outside of work.
After work, you know, everyone hangs out back at the hotel. One we’re staying at now will even give you a beer at night. So that’s a nice way to wind down, and everyone gets together and talk about what happened and, you know, talk about life outside of work. A lot of us are on the road. So that’s a good, a good way to have a support group with you every day.
No, I don’t think this job is for everyone. I think you got to have a certain toughness about you, a certain resilience-ness about you. Hasn’t been too bad for myself, and definitely opened up some opportunities for the family that they would not normally have.
I do own a suit. Couldn’t tell you the last time I wore it, probably doesn’t fit anymore. It was probably when I was in high school or something, or maybe for my first job interview. It wasn’t on the job. I can tell you that. That’s for sure.
No, I wouldn’t say last time I wear a suit was probably at my brother’s wedding. My sister’s wedding. I don’t know.
I’ve never worn a suit and I don’t plan to, because I don’t need it.