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Erik Burgess, Published June 07 2013

Construction season off to soggy start

FARGO – The past three months here were the second-wettest on record, and the consistent rain hasn’t just put a damper on summer spirits.

It’s also caused a muddy, lagging start to the construction season.

“It just makes everything soggy,” said Dan Hanson, Dilworth city engineer, who works out of Moore Engineering in West Fargo. “It’s just been a late year getting going in the first place because the snow stuck around for so long, and then the amount of rain we’ve had.”

A total of 10.71 inches of precipitation fell in Fargo during the meteorological spring, March through May, the second most in that period on record. The record was set in 1902 with 11.44 inches.

In May alone, 7.16 inches fell. That’s 4.35 inches above average, making it the fourth-wettest May on record, according to the National Weather Service. Much of that came when 3.77 inches fell on May 29, a daily record for Fargo, beating the 1909 daily record of 3.12 inches.

The deluge hinders construction projects at each end of the timeline: It doesn’t allow new projects to begin, and it prevents old ones from wrapping up, Hanson said.

It also caused a delay in lifting some load limits in North Dakota, said Jay Carney, project manager at Industrial Builders in Fargo. It makes hauling around heavy equipment very expensive, he said.

“They (load limits) usually are off by the beginning of May,” Carney said. “I mean, that’s a very big deal.”

Building access roads to construction sites becomes difficult with the soggy ground. Crews in Dilworth working the on Prairie Crossings Townhome development on Eighth Avenue Northwest have not been able to build the development’s roads, what will be 14th and 15th streets northwest in Dilworth.

Without roads, finishing the homes has lagged, said Dave Glessner, project manager. They wanted residents to start moving in June 1, but now Glessner hopes half of the 21 townhomes will be ready by July and the rest by August.

A majority of the leases have been signed, but some to-be residents have since chosen to move elsewhere, and three groups of would-be residents needed to be moved to another development as a temporary fix, Glessner said.

“There’s no question it’s been very stressful on the general contractor,” he said. “It’s taken some creative thinking on his part.”

While some issues due to rainfall are expected in the spring, Glessner said this year has been particularly troublesome.

“The general contractor is used to rolling with the punches, but the punches keep coming continuously (this year), and that’s what is not normal,” he said.

Streets cannot be built in sloppy conditions because any soft spots in the foundation can lead to failure, Hanson said.

Sometimes crews can do other jobs while things dry up, but sometimes, “You have no choice but to sit and wait,” Carney said.

Glessner said crews plan to build driveways at Prairie Crossings starting Monday, as long as it doesn’t rain this weekend.

But more light showers are possible this weekend, said Bill Barrett, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Grand Forks. Warmer and drier weather could come by mid-week, with highs in the mid-70s, he said.

“Certainly not predicting a drought like last summer, but not what we’ve been getting,” he said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518