Construction Begins on Bigfork Stormwater Project

By Beacon Staff

Construction on the Bigfork stormwater project is scheduled to begin Monday, when crews start installing major pieces of filtration equipment on Grand Drive and Lake Avenue.

According to Brett Walcheck, project engineer from 48 North Engineering, crews will dig a 15-by-17 foot hole to install the Jellyfish – a filtration system with up to 20 arms. The Jellyfish, in conjunction with the hydrodynamic separator, is expected to treat nearly all of the area’s yearly runoff.

This installation will likely have the most impact on Bigfork traffic, Walcheck said, so it is a good sign that crews are putting it in before the tourism season ramps up.

Traffic should be disrupted and periodically stopped altogether during the weeklong installation, he said.

Installing the filtration system is part one of the project’s first phase, Walcheck said. Part two of phase one will include installing a conveyance line for stormwater from the Marina Cay Resort to the filtration system and from Electric Avenue to the system.

Tests in the past two decades determined that the Bigfork’s stormwater drains directly into Bigfork Bay, Flathead Lake and the Swan River, bringing with it toxins, oil and unhealthy amounts of fecal coliform bacteria.

The county created the Bigfork Stormwater Advisory Committee to find out how the drainage system – an uncharted maze that has been in place since the mid-1950s – needs to be fixed.

The project’s first phase includes upgrading the drainage system and installing underground filtration. Four Filterra units on Grand Drive will filter phosphorous, nitrogen and metals, which bind to soil; these units would be covered with trees and shrubbery to absorb these unwanted substances.

The south side of Lake Avenue will have a hydrodynamic separator, which removes sediments in stormwater runoff before passing into the larger system. This system also traps oil.

This stormwater runoff then hits the Jellyfish apparatus, which offers easier maintenance because one person can pull an individual “arm” out of the ground to fix or clean.

Once construction begins, Walcheck said a contractual timeline begins. Crews will have 80 calendar days to complete the project, but it will likely be extended due to weather days.

Once this part of phase one is complete, crews will take weather days to await warmer temperatures, Walcheck said.

“They’re going to cover that entire little area at Grand and Lake Avenue, right next to the entrance to the Flathead County dock,” he said, “and then basically disappear again.”

In all, phase one is programmed to be finished before June 1.

“We’re trying to have the majority of this wrapped up before the primary tourist season hits,” he said.

A pre-construction meeting on Grand Drive last week drew a considerable crowd, including local business owners and officials. County Commissioner Pam Holmquist said the meeting had beneficial dialogue about the project, and noted the early start would be good for business interests in Bigfork.

“That’s a great thing,” she said. “To get it started early is great for the businesses in town.”

Anyone with questions or concerns about the stormwater construction project is invited to call 48 North Engineering, Walcheck said.

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