Micro Tunnel Boring Machine to Meet Specialized Construction Needs

Posted: Mar 24 2022
Garrison Diversion Conservancy District (Garrison Diversion) staff and members of the Board of Directors took a chilly field trip in early March to Washburn, North Dakota, to see firsthand an impressive piece of construction equipment. Garrison Diversion, a co-sponsor of the Red River Valley Water Supply Project (RRVWSP), manages the construction of the drought mitigation Project.

The RRVWSP’s design includes a water intake on the Missouri River near Washburn where the buried pipeline that will deliver water from central North Dakota to the Red River Valley begins. “This is one of the most challenging parts of the entire project because we need to horizontally tunnel for about 1,600-feet underneath the riverbed to complete the Missouri River Intake,” says Kip Kovar, Deputy Program Manager for the RRVWSP Engineering.

A unique project like this necessitates specialized equipment. A Micro Tunnel Boring Machine (MTBM) will allow construction crews to tunnel underneath the Missouri River with groundwater present. The machine needs to be operated from above ground due to the risk of being flooded. The MTBM rotates and cuts through the riverbed, turns the material into a slurry and then removes the slurry mixture to create the tunnel.

The machine is owned by Michels Corporation. A construction crew member will operate the MTBM, affectionately named “Pamela”, from the warmth of a control house. The tunnel boring work will take approximately six weeks to complete.