viaductPhoto by Andy Atkinson -Jason Snelgrove walks down a big water tube to help Craig Doolaege with the tube's installation. It's used to divert water in Bear Creek from around the Interstate 5 viaduct pillars, which are undergoing restabilization.

Big "snake" invades Bear Creek

By JIM DAVIS

   It looks a like a giant water snake slinking in the waters of Bear Creek. Instead, it's a 400-foot-long tube used to divert water away from five pillars that hold up the viaduct of Interstate 5 near Hawthorne Park in Medford.

   "It's like a big water bed really," said Craig Doolaege of Aqua Dam, Inc. as he bounced along the tube wearing hip waders. The giant tube -- called a Water Structure -- is filled with water and made out of plastic an woven geotextile. Contractors for the Eureka, California-based Water Structures Unlimited placed the tube around the pillars, which are embedded in Bear Creek and support the viaduct.

   The tube is just part of a larger project. Trevor Gardner of West Coast Contractors of Coos Bay said the pillars rest on giant slabs of concrete buried in the muck. "The tube just gives us our own little work area," Gardner said.

   The creek has dug pockets underneath the slabs of concrete, Gardner said. West Coast Contractors will be pouring more concrete to fill up the pockets and firm up the foundation. Gardner said they will be spending the next two weeks on the project -- unless rain causes delay. The cost of the water diversion project $11,000. The total cost of repairing the pillars was not available. David Doolaege, Craig's brother and owner of Aqua Dam, Inc., said that he came up with the idea for the tubes about 10 years ago while working to help stop a flood.

   "Have you ever been on a sandbag line?" Doolaege said. "It gives you a lot of time to think."

   Even so, Doolaege said that his company doesn't do much work for communities that are being flooded. Mainly, the company works for contractors who are working on water projects -- such as working on piers or sewage lines along rivers or creeks or the project on the viaduct. Traditionally contractors would divert water on water projects by using large sheets of metal or coffer dams, which are dams made out of compacted dirt. Now, contractors can use the giant tube, pump it up with water and roll it around any project, Doolaege said. The tubes can divert the water and don't muddy up waters like coffer dams or cause problems for fish like metal dams, he said.

   The water diversion business has taken him and his brother all across the country -- including to a project earlier this year just north of Ashland. But, Doolaege said, it wasn't always that way. "When we first started, everybody thought it was just a joke," Doolaege said. "It took us a long time to convince people that it was effective."

Copyright   The Mail Tribune 1998, Medford, Oregon USA