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Environmental Health and Engineering staff overcome climate challenges in Eek water project

June 10, 2016

Earlier this year, climate conditions in Eek posed unique challenges and created an opportunity for Environmental Health and Engineering staff to display their high caliber of team work and problem solving skills and provide Eek residents with a year-round water supply with a newly installed water intake system. Construction staff were waiting for the ice on the Eenayarak River to freeze to a depth thick enough to support an excavator used to install the water intake structure. However, the ice never reached the desired thickness. Given these climate challenges in this Western Alaska community, the project team explored other options instead of the excavator. The proposed solution was a gantry crane, a type of crane that is built on top of a structure and functions like a bridge. In this case, the gantry would straddle the area where the water intake would be installed. A gantry crane can be assembled on the ice with a lot less pressure per square foot than a fixed crane because it distributes the weight over a wider area on the ice. In fact, the gantry crane can be safely used on ice that is 20 inches thick instead of the 36 inches of ice that is required for a fixed crane. The planning for using a gantry crane started in early February and needed to begin quickly to stay ahead of spring breakup. Six cranes were required for this project, which were designed and built by an outside contractor and fast-tracked to Eek. Additional work was done to ensure the project plan and design met standards for feasibility and safety. The cranes arrived onsite on March 30, and the onsite crew assembled and prepared them for installation. Due to the preliminary planning and up-front work, this portion of the project was smoothly executed in one day. On March 31, the crew did their final walk through and safety briefings. The project team consisted of Construction Manager Brad Bigelow, Onsite Superintendent Steve Wilson, Civil Engineers Joseph Hess and Greg McConnell, and Safety Manager Chris Fish. The key to this project’s success was teamwork and ANTHC’s commitment to the health of the community. These types of innovative construction methods are very unique to our construction staff. This project has supplied the community with the means to pump water year-round and to support the fully piped water and sewer system. ANTHC Environmental Health and Engineering’s innovative engineering and can-do construction teams know how to build in the Arctic and adapt to the ever-changing environment. Whether the challenges facing projects are Mother Nature, economy, or changing technology, ANTHC engineering services and construction group has the expertise to face these challenges head on. For more information on ANTHC’s construction and engineering work, visit

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