Laurel riverbank work nears completion; new boat ramp installed

2013-11-16T00:00:00Z 2014-11-25T16:58:14Z Laurel riverbank work nears completion; new boat ramp installedBRETT FRENCH french@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

LAUREL — In three weeks, contractors should be finished with repairs to the south bank of the Yellowstone River here, rip-rapping and beefing up 700 feet of shore after the record-setting flood of 2011 swept away much of the old bank below the Highway 212 bridge.

“We’ll come back in the spring and plant trees in the dike and hydro-seed it,” said Nick Wilson, project manager for Wilson Brothers Construction of Cowley, Wyo.

Included in the repairs is the construction of a $140,000 20-foot wide, 100-foot long concrete boat ramp that’s built much stronger than the old structure that was washed out in 2011. Fish, Wildlife and Parks chipped in $35,000 toward the cost of the work.

“This one is a lot sturdier than the last one,” Wilson said. “We epoxied rebar into the bedrock and tied it all together.”

The ramp was constructed of 50 cubic yards of concrete, the last of which was poured Friday morning. Eyebolts were embedded in the concrete to provide boaters a place to tie off while retrieving or parking their trailer. When the ramp will be open is dependent on the concrete curing and when the coffer dam is removed.

“As an avid fisher and hunter, the thing I’m most excited about is the installation of the boat ramp,” said Chad Hanson of Great West Engineering, which is overseeing the work. “Fish and Game worked with the city to incorporate that into the work. It’s a newer and better design Fish and Game likes to use. It’s going to be nice.”

Funded by grant

After months of paperwork, meetings and with the help of the state’s congressional delegation, the city of Laurel was approved earlier this year for a $1.4 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make the repairs. Wilson Brothers bid the job at $1.02 million.

“If we hadn’t been able to prove that we were protecting the existing infrastructure of utilities in the park, it would never have been approved,” Hanson said, because FEMA doesn’t pay for bank stabilization.

The contractors were expected to haul in 5,000 yards of rock pulled from the nearby Iron Ridge Quarry to extend the dike out 20 to 60 feet and reclaim what had disappeared in the flooding.

“It had really eaten into that bank in a big way,” Hanson said.

To work along the river, Wilson Construction had a crane place 850 3,000-pound Super Sacks of sand into the river and had divers anchor tarps along the outside of the sacks to create coffer dams along the bank and around the boat ramp.

More work needed

Unfortunately, the 2011 flooding also reshaped the Yellowstone River channel, scouring it deeper along the south bank. That took water away from the city’s relatively new intake for the water plant. Since the flood, the intake has often been left above water and unusable.

Great West had proposed constructing a diversion in the river to push water to the intake, but that didn’t pass muster with state agencies.

Kurt Markegard, Laurel public works director, said the weir would have been the most economical way to divert water, but state agencies were worried about fish passage and the possibility that the structure might fail.

“So we’re back to the drawing board,” Hanson said. “We won’t have a final recommendation until early spring.”

Until then, the city is using its old intake when the new one is out of the water.

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