Utilities Work Together To Prepare Iowa Site

By Valerie Van Kooten | September 28, 2010

The Farm Progress Show is an annual outdoor expo that features the newest in agricultural equipment and farming techniques. The event pulls in hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and has traveled to a different Midwest site each year since its inception in 1953. However, two permanent sites have now been chosen – one in Decatur, IL, which debuted in 2005, and the other in Boone, IA, which was put into service in August 2008. The show will rotate between these two sites in the future.

Getting the Iowa site ready took determination from the utility vendors who needed to install electrical, water and sewer lines in the face of strict deadlines and a spring that was not just wet – it was one that broke the record books in terms of rainfall and massive flooding. It also took cooperation between the water and electrical companies to stay on schedule for the August 2008 show dates.

Getting The Power In

The 103-acre site, located 4 miles east of Boone on Highway 30, had hosted another expo from 2003 to 2005 but has sat vacant until 2007, when construction began for the Farm Progress Show. During those years, the former show site had been turned back into farmable acres.

Getting permanent utilities to the site was going to be a big job. Mike Clark and his crew at Enterprise Electric in Boone were hired to install the primary cable and transformers, secondary cable, and all the telephone wire. In all, the company and its six employees installed 56,000 feet of electrical lines and 20,000 feet of communication lines.

Clark, president of the company he founded in 1992 with partner Rob Kudrna, heard about the project from a friend at Midland Power who was talking about how much work would be on the job site and encouraged Clark to put in a bid. Enterprise Electric originally bid the project in early 2008 and received to the go-ahead on Feb. 18, 2008. The company had planned to do some initial setup in March and to begin the real work on April 1. But Mother Nature had other plans.

“In April, we worked a total of one and a half days,” says Clark. “In May, we worked two weeks, and in June we worked two weeks. So over that three-month span, we worked about a month.”

Iowa experienced one of its worst periods of weather on record in May and June, with tornadoes and flooding ravaging many areas of the state. While the Boone area did not suffer from these tragedies, it did have to contend with above-average rainfall, which posed special problems for those working on the Farm Progress Show site.

The power lines were to be installed in a trench 8 inches wide and 5 feet deep. “We don't usually go this deep on a job, but when the tents are set for the Farm Progress Show they can drive the stakes 3 to 4 feet deep,” Clark says.

Once they began trenching, it became immediately apparent that water would be a problem. “When you get to 5 feet deep, you're usually in water anyway, and this year we especially were,” he says. “We had a real battle with keeping the trench open – there was no pumping, and we just had to be there putting the wire in or it wasn't going to get in.”

When it became obvious that the end-of-June deadline wasn't going to be met, Enterprise Electric received an extension. “They couldn't put roads in, couldn't finish the dirt work, and everything was piled up,” says Clark. “When it rains every day, it's not good working in the dirt.”

To complete the project, Clark used a Vermeer RTX1250 utility tractor equipped with a trencher attachment for the majority of the project, but also rented a Vermeer T555 heavy-duty track unit to trench about 2,000 feet of the worse areas.

“In certain areas, we'd go down 4 feet just great, but the last foot would be sandy, silty wet stuff,” he says. “You had to be right there with the wire, not just trenching, but had to have the wire there. We spent most of the morning just getting the cable laid out and then trenching after lunch.” The company finished the work around the middle of August.

Getting The Water In

One of the companies Enterprise Electric worked with to complete work on the Farm Progress site was Xenia Water, a rural water district established in 1977 that serves the north central Iowa area. The company offers both potable and wastewater services to individuals, communities and developers.

Because Xenia Water had existing water mains in the area, they were contacted to add on to that infrastructure. As a government-utility entity, Xenia had defined boundaries within a district, with the city continuing to maintain the pipelines, but the Farm Progress Show owned the actual infrastructure within the site.

Chad Reutter, project coordinator for Xenia Water, says their company installed about 4,500 feet of 12-inch water main and about 14,000 feet of 8-inch water main, as well as provided some smaller hydrants on-site. In addition, they installed 15,000 feet of 6-inch sewer main, using a Vermeer T655 and T555 track trencher and a D18x22 Navigator horizontal directional drill.

“We ran between 5 and 6 feet of cover,” says Reutter, adding that the trenches ran from a mile long down to a couple hundred feet and were anywhere from 10 to 16 inches wide. “We ran a chute behind the trenchers, with a pipe feed that went up and over the trencher.”

At any given time, there were 10 to 18 employees on-site. “We didn't run into any soil conditions we weren't expecting,” says Reutter. “We had to work closely with Enterprise Electric and go around their utilities. There was some sandy soil, lots of thick and heavy clay, and a lot of good old black topsoil.”

Xenia finished in the area well before the show began and doesn't see a lot of ongoing work in the area unless new vendors come in and need new hydrants. “It's exciting to see this little city emerge out here in this rural area,” says Reutter. “It's amazing, all the activity going on up here and how much goes into this.” n

Valerie Van Kooten is a features writer for Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, IA.