Starting today, a stretch of West Barton County Road will be reduced from four lanes to two as crews begin to bury a concrete pipe beneath it. The work is part of a nine-month, $6 million project to improve the flow of water from the Arkansas River to Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.
Torn out will be a 35-foot swath of the road four miles west of Great Bend, said Dan Voegeli with Wildcat Construction, the Wichita firm handling the massive effort. One lane of traffic will be maintained in each direction for the two to three weeks it will take to complete the work.
However, the overall project, being done for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, started in January. The goal is to replace the portion of the Cheyenne Bottoms inlet canal that parallels West 60 Ave. (the blacktop that connects Dundee and Heizer) from U.S. Highway 56, north to Dry Creek.
This is just the first time the endeavor has interfered with motorists.
The Wildcat team was busy at the site Monday afternoon. Bulldozers, graders, excavators and other heavy equipment dug the trench and lowered segments of the five-foot pipe into it.
A line of pipe pieces nearly a half mile long rested in a field, waiting to be tucked into the soil.
The stretch of open canal, constructed in the 1950’s, had become inefficient in water delivery and a significant drain on time and money in recent years, said Carl Grover, CBWA manager. As a result, the department began a project to convert the open canal to pipe.
“This will stop the loss of water diverted from the Arkansas River and delivered to Dry Creek,” Grover said. “And it will also make it much easier to control tree and noxious weeds on the long narrow strip of property owned by the state.”
The plants had become a problem, but Grover said man made matters worse. “People kept throwing trash into that canal” and cleaning it up had become a drag on resources.
“It had been a maintanance nightmare and it was an inefficient system,” Grover said. “This is just an upgrade to make it more efficient.”
Work also includs the pouring concrete for structures along the pipe’s route, some of which are alread completed. So far, more than 3,000 feet of pipe has been buried.
The depth of the pipe varies along the path. At the shallowest point, it will be about eight feet deep and at the deepest, about 15 feet deep.
Wildcat construction was given 270 days to complete the project. However, Voegeli said this is springtime in Kansas, and there could be weather delays.