LaPrele Irrigation

Known for solving the world’s toughest scientific and technical challenges, RESPEC recently designed a truly customized solution for Wyoming’s LaPrele Irrigation District. The project location is the rocky terrain of Wyoming’s Converse County, home to many prehistoric fossils, including the Supersaurus, a 40-ton super lizard that roamed 145 million years ago.

As one of the only engineering firms that specialize in both irrigation and rock mechanics, RESPEC was hired by the Wyoming Water Development Commission, in coordination with LaPrele Irrigation District, to assess the entire District, including the private dam located below a rugged, weathered canyon wall several hundred feet tall. Eroded over many centuries, a massive limestone boulder recently sloughed off and threatened the dam and waterway.

With three large boulders threatening the dam, the largest boulder, weighing an estimated 410,000 pounds, was the most problematic. Perched high above a popular dam and fishing area, the huge rock was poised to fall at any moment, threatening the dam’s structural integrity, as well as the lives of people and livestock downstream.

The team’s pro-active solution recommended using RESPEC’s custom displacement transducers. RESPEC proposed to fit each boulder with an early warning motion sensor, similar to sensors used in underground mining, to detect movement and displacement as slight as 0.01 inch. Data is measured and transferred to RESPEC servers using a Campbell Scientific CR300, then compared to thresholds to warn district authorities. The remote early warning system may give the district time to alert and clear the area to prevent damage, in the event that the rocks begin to move.

Prior to RESPEC’s work for the District, no other firm could offer a solution for the endangered canyon and waterway. But technical challenges in extreme conditions appeal to RESPEC’s multi-disciplined team. The project required technical team members with rope access certification to rappel down the vertical rock wall to assess the area and determine the risk of large boulders falling. The solution provides a powerful safety mechanism for the small irrigation district, area hunters and campers, as well as wildlife and livestock. RESPEC’s creative, cross-disciplined team worked under extreme conditions to create a unique, customized solution.

With overlapping federal, state, and private landowner interests, Wyoming’s complex lands and watersheds require RESPEC’s professional leadership in rigorous planning, stakeholder communication, and consensus building, in addition to innovative technology solutions. RESPEC’s watershed project for this rugged canyon in Wyoming is one of hundreds of watershed projects performed nationwide.

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