Engineered to function as a catch basin in a flood event, the Sugarbush snowmaking pond did just that during Hurricane Irene flooding last month.
During the August 28 flooding, the Mad River jumped its western bank and ran through the ski resort’s 10-acre pond, dropping out tons and tons of dirt and gravel in the process. Sugarbush began the massive pond restoration process shortly after the flood and has had a crew of workers in there from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. six days a week trying to get the pond cleaned up and berms rebuilt before snowmaking season.
Mike Wing, who is managing the project for Sugarbush and is also the snow surfaces manager for the company, said that the enormous pile of topsoil would be offered free to local farmers and others in need of topsoil once it has been tested for pollutants. The pictures for this article show it on September 27 when Wing said about half of the pond had been excavated.
The dirt is a sandy loam/topsoil, he explained at the site this week, while giant six-wheeled G.W. Tatro vehicles that carry 30 yards each zoomed from the pond to the dirt pile. An excavator sat in the pond filling the vehicles and another one sat at the pile, scooping up the just-dumped dirt onto the tower of dirt.
Adjacent to the beginner-slope pile of topsoil is a much smaller hill of gravel that came from the pond. Wing said that the line of demarcation between the gravel and topsoil was remarkably clear when the water was out of the pond.
Candice White, Sugarbush vice president of marketing, said that the repair project will cost an estimated $600,000 to $700,000 to complete. She said the resort is hopeful that it will receive some insurance funds and is working with a bank as well as the Vermont Economic Development Authority.
To get to the point where the topsoil and gravel could be extracted, Wing and his crew first had to dewater the pond. Under normal conditions the pond holds 25 million gallons of water. They were trying to get the pond drained before power was returned to the site and began a complex process of creating a siphon using 10-inch pipe, a welder, an excavator, gravity and some Yankee ingenuity.
Wing capped the outflow end of the pipe and had the final piece put into place with an excavator and filled with water before he ran to the far end and uncapped it. They siphoned five to seven million gallons of water out of the pond over five or six days 24 hours a day. As they are working on the pond now, they are dealing with groundwater seeping in at a rate of 200 to 400 gallons per hour.
That means the giant six-wheeled vehicles splash through standing water and mud as they make their 60 to 80 round trips per day. Wing expects this phase of the repair will take through the end of next week. Then the western bank of the Mad River that was breached will be returned to its pre-flood contours. The earthen berm between the south end of the pond and the river will be restored using cap stone, gravel and #4 shot rock obtained from blasting at the DeFreest farm.
Then the power poles need to go back in, power needs to be restored and the pond refilled. Wing said it would take about five days to fill the pond.