Construction is continuing on millions of dollars worth of water-related projects that the City of Lawton is funding through its Capital Improvements Programs.
Details on those projects, presented earlier this month to members of the CIP Citizens Advisory Committee, soon will be available to a wider variety of residents, through a new digital process the City of Lawton is working to put into place. City Engineer Joseph Painter said the process is “more useable to residents” because it will offer more data than just the name of the project, its cost and where it is located. That upgrade is part of an overall modernization project that will allow city officials to monitor projects and locations, allowing them to more easily identify issues before they become problems, said City Manager Michael Cleghorn.
Cleghorn said the system will be expanded to include not only CIPs, but also programs such as the Ad Valorem Street Improvement Program and generic upgrades that fit the definition of capital improvements.
Among the water-related projects is Phase III of the citywide sewer rehabilitation project, initially crafted as a 21-year, three-phase program to improve sewer mains/lines across Lawton and lessen the infiltration problems that had drawn sanctions from the Department of Environmental Quality. Lawton is in the final years of Phase III, a program initially focused on the East Cache Creek basin but since expanded to include other trunk lines.
City officials said Phase III was expanded beyond its original seven-year life to allow them to add other major trunklines, some damaged by severe flooding that struck Lawton when the drought broke in 2015.
Today, the large sewer rehab crew is working in the Wolf Creek basin, replacing a main between West Lee and West Gore boulevards (a work site on the northwest corner of West Lee Boulevard and Southwest 38th Street is marked by segments of sewer main). Painter said crews have completed work between Lee Boulevard and the railroad tracks one-half mile north. Work on 48-inch and 36-inch main segments will begin in coming weeks, with that installation across Cameron University property expected to take another two months, weather permitting.
The city also is continuing work on alternate water sources, under an analysis the City Council hired Garver LLC to do in the wake of historic drought that drained city lakes to dangerously low elevations. The CIPs designated $64 million for water work, to include investigating the use of water wells and wastewater reuse, as well as needed repairs to the Lake Lawtonka and Lake Ellsworth dams.
Garver’s analysis on alternative sources prompted Lawton to focus its attention on water wells, and Painter said engineers are completing final designs on the first well site in the city’s southeast quadrant, while continuing to look at five other sites. He said January is the expected bid-letting date for a contractor to drill the first well and a pilot study for proper treatment of the resulting groundwater.
That treatment facility will be located at the Southeast Water Treatment Plant, meaning the entire groundwater project will include drilling wells, laying the infrastructure necessary to transport water to the water plant and building a treatment facility specifically designed to remove groundwater contaminants. Groundwater then will be blended with lake water from Ellsworth and Waurika lakes; that blended water then will be put through normal treatment processes, city officials said.
The expenses of that project will be eased with an $8.4 million grant the City of Lawton received from the Department of Commerce. Painter said those grant funds will save CIP dollars, which then could be designated for other projects. Cleghorn said the grant is designed to help communities with infrastructure needs, and because Lawton is the sole raw water source for Fort Sill, the project is important to the military.
Design work also is continuing on repairs to the Ellsworth dam spillway, after repairs were completed to the eight gates on the Lawtonka dam. Some of the Lawtonka work improved aging gates, but others were related to damage caused by debris wedging into an open gate during flooding and damage founded while closing gates.
At the same time, city officials were looking at the Ellsworth spillway, after damage to the concrete pavement became evident. Additional analysis revealed voids under the spillway, and designs for the improvement project will focus on all problems. Design plans on what is expected to be a $16 million project are essentially complete and will be sent to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for analysis. Lawton also has applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a grant to help with the project; approval would allow the city to recover $12.5 million of the cost, Painter said.
City officials also are looking to update digital systems that help monitor water-related infrastructure.
That includes modernizing the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system, digital monitoring that allows operators to monitor components of the city’s water systems from remote locations. That automated capacity has decreased over the years; Cleghorn said the “old and antiquated system” means Lawton must have more personnel that it would otherwise need to monitor water components. He said the SCADA system for the wastewater plant, installed in 1997, has been non-functional for years, meaning those components must be operated by hand.
City officials have said the SCADA system allows them to monitor tasks as varied as water levels in a tower, to leaks in a waterline, to flow in a water main.
Cleghorn said officials have estimated it would take $4.5 million to modernize the SCADA. Painter said a design meeting on a project was set last week.