Chilled water project nears completion: Cofferdam to go


UI officials are wrapping up a project that left a cofferdam in the Iowa River during last summer’s flooding, that might have forced waters higher.

To cool university buildings, construction workers began laying a 36-inch pipeline through the Iowa River to bring chilled water from the West Campus to the East. The project started in March 2007 and was intended to take only two-and-a-half months.

Brian Keating, an engineer with UI Facilities Management, said the project is now expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Along the way, work was delayed several times, most notably during last year’s flooding.

Though costs of construction have risen due to delays, the university’s contract with Iowa City-based Maxwell Construction prevented the cost from rising above $7 million, Keating said.

Construction of the pipeline is aided by a cofferdam, a temporary structure that acts as a barrier for the construction site on the riverbed.

The cofferdam collapsed in the early stages of construction. After rebuilding the dam, high water levels delayed efforts further. That continued last spring through the summer flood.

In June 2008, the cofferdam increased upstream water levels by 6 to 12 inches, adding to the already swollen river, according to many residents of the Idyllwild neighborhood. The neighborhood, located northwest of Terrell Mill Park — sustained a considerable amount of flood damage.

University officials have said that because the water was so high above flood level, it’s difficult to determine if the cofferdam had any effect.

Some Idyllwild residents remain unconvinced.

The water displaced from the constricted flow of the Iowa River because of the cofferdam added one-and-a-half feet to the total flooding, said Sally Cline, the president of the Idyllwild Condominium Owners Association.

A temporary dam should be removed in impeding water situations, she said, but the UI’s was not.
“We’re delighted that it’s coming out,” Cline said about the structure, which is located on the west bank of the Iowa River north of the Iowa Avenue bridge.

Idyllwild residents considered suing the UI, claiming the additional damage due to the cofferdam cost the community more than $4 million. UI spokesman Steve Parrott said he doesn’t know of any Idyllwild residents taking legal action.

Keating said delays are common with cofferdams, in part because of “leachings,” or leaks that spring during construction.

Glen Mowery, director of Utilities and Energy Management for the UI, said the cofferdam project delayed the construction of a $40 million chilled-water plant.

Construction workers, Keating said, were removing the structural components of the cofferdam and sealing the pipeline this week. He said the pipeline could be sealed as early as April 13.

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