Flowing Freely

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Flowing Freely

Spring 2013

Keeping the lines of communication open was key to successfully delivering clean, potable water to the residents of Santa Fe, N.M.

For years, the city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County in New Mexico relied on local aquifers as the main source of water for residents. The practice could not continue, however – the aquifers had been tapped beyond the level at which they could be replenished and could no longer reliably provide enough water to get the area’s population through a drought.

To address the problem, stakeholder representatives from the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County and the Las Campanas Limited Partnership formed a coalition called the Buckman Direct Diversion Board to find a way to divert water from the Rio Grande, treat it and pipe the treated water throughout the region. The final project would ultimately include an intake from the river, a sediment-removal facility, a raw-water lift station, two booster stations to pump the water, and the pipelines needed to carry the water to its final destination.

The board chose a two-step, design-build solicitation strategy for design and construction with a prescriptive request for proposal (RFP). Evaluation relied heavily on proposed project cost, but quality, risk management and allocation, schedule, qualifications and cost-saving ideas were also factors. The contract went to the joint venture of CH2M HILL and Western Summit, working on a fixed-price, design-build contract.

Fostering Trust and Collaboration

Communication among the parties involved was a significant factor in the project’s success and the owner’s satisfaction. The Buckman Direct Diversion Board represented all stakeholders’ ideas about the best ways to satisfy the need for a reliable source of clean, potable water. Open lines of communication also helped the board develop a collegial, trusting relationship with the joint venture.

The CH2M HILL/Western Summit team made a point of including the board in the design process. The stakeholders on the board knew that their needs and concerns were heard and addressed, creating not only a good working relationship, but also helping prevent the need for changes. Every party involved – the designers, builders and stakeholders – collaborated to develop a design that could be completed on schedule and within the mandated budget while fulfilling stakeholders’ needs.

The development and implementation of the schedule also included input from all parties. And open communication alerted the design-builders to the stakeholders’ wish list of items that were not included in the contract, but – time and budget permitting – could expand and improve the project’s scope. “Free-flowing communication was a significant benefit for the job,” says Rick Carpenter, project manager. “Trust was fostered early on and maintained throughout the project.”

Tackling Challenges Proactively

In planning, the CH2M HILL/Western Summit team concentrated on keeping workflows smooth and preventing the need to make changes later. One serious issue was the utility and other infrastructure that had to be avoided and the condition of the ground that supports it. The team’s Pothole Crew worked with surveyors, exhaustively verifying the location of each utility. Using this information, designers finalized the pipeline design, routing its tie-in points to avoid conflicts with any utility or structure already in place.

The CH2M HILL/Western Summit joint venture handled the complicated permitting process behind building facilities and pipeline on property belonging to the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Santa Fe County and the New Mexico Department of Transportation. In addition to the permitting requirements of these governmental entities, the pipeline’s path also traverses environmentally and culturally sensitive areas that are home to threatened and endangered plants and animals and may hold Native American artifacts, adding another layer of requirements. The team tracked the progress of each permit and documented every element necessary; all were granted in a timely manner.

Right-of-way acquisition was another issue. Much of the pipeline was originally planned to run near or through private property, and securing easements from property owners in the very short 90-day time frame was a challenge. Some property owners refused to grant the easement, and others did not respond by the deadline, so the designers narrowed the necessary easement from 40 feet to 25 feet and rerouted the pipeline to avoid private property entirely. Working with the state Department of Transportation, the team also won a partial lane closure on frontage roads, allowing workers to perform the necessary construction expeditiously.

An Eye Toward Operations

The board relied on the experience and expertise of the joint venture partners to improve and expand upon the scope of the initial plan. Throughout the process, the CH2M HILL/Western Summit team proposed solutions that cut initial and life-cycle costs, reducing the project’s time frame, and simplifying construction and long-term operations over the design specified in the RFP.

Open communication came into play again during construction. With the team managing multiple job sites, efficiency and time management were crucial to maintaining a tight schedule. Open communication between the design-build team and the owner was also important during commissioning and start-up. CH2M HILL and Western Summit operated the facility for the first three months prior to the formal acceptance test, allowing the team to fine-tune systems and optimize operations. During this three-month period, the newly hired operating staff shadowed the design-build team members, learning how to operate the Buckman facilities from those already familiar with them.

The project came in early and is currently delivering more than 70 percent of Santa Fe’s annual water supplyÑ15 million gallons daily to more than 100,000 customers. The process exemplifies many of DBIAÕs recommended best practices, resulting in not only the owner’s satisfaction, but also helping the Buckman Direct Diversion project win an Honor Award in the Water/Wastewater category for 2012.

“This project was very large, extremely complex, costly and politically volatile, but failure was not an option, given the criticality of our water resources situation in the region,” Carpenter says. “This made effective and successful partnering and collaboration more of an imperative than it otherwise would have been. We believe that [these] played a large part in the success of the project.”

Takeaways: Constant and open communication was crucial to the success of the project and the owner’s satisfaction. Representing stakeholders, the Buckman Direct Diversion Board and its design-build partner, the CH2M HILL/Western Summit Constructors Joint Venture, achieved its goal – delivering potable water to Santa Fe and the surrounding county.


Project: Buckman Direct Diversion Project
Location: Santa Fe, N.M.
Owner: City of Santa Fe, County of Santa Fe and Buckman Direct Diversion Board
Design-Builder: CH2M HILL/Western Summit Constructors Joint Venture
Architect and Engineer: CH2M HILL
Specialty Consultants: AMEC, Bohannon Huston, HDR, Molzen Corbin and Spears Architects
Specialty Contractors: McDade Woodcock, ERS Constructors, Natgun, Yearout Mechanical
Other Key Professional: CDM Smith as owner’s agent