A joint venture of construction companies has begun excavation works on the $100 million Waimea Community Dam to get a better understanding of the geological realities surrounding the project.
Fulton Hogan and Taylors Contracting have partnered on the three-year project in the Lee Valley, on New Zealand’s South Island.
The dam is being developed after multiple droughts in the region put severe pressure on the local community and horticultural and agricultural businesses.
Project Director, Peter Wissel, has called the Waimea dam a ‘one-in-a-kind’ project.
“It’s definitely got its technical challenges – the remote location, the need to divert a live river and some uncertainty about the geology – but that makes it a great project technically,” Wissel said.
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The area’s geology has been identified as one of the major risks to the project, with the excavation works aiming to uncover the full extent of the potential impact.
“Until we start opening up the ground and looking at the geotech, we don’t know what we’re going to be in for,” said Waimea Water Ltd chair, Karen Jordan.
“However, while there’s some uncertainty, every single best practice project device and discipline has been deployed here.”
Local MP, Nick Smith, did his engineering PhD on the Clyde Dam and has acknowledged the risks.
“Anything that is involving earthworks and geotechnical has some element of uncertainty,” he said.
“No matter how many drill holes you put in, the nature of the broken-up greywacke country that we have in a region such as this, there will be some uncertainty.”
Fulton Hogan will have more than 100 people on site during the project, drawn from the local construction market and supplemented with specialists from New Zealand and internationally.