Water Realities: Building Along The Blue River
Building a business in the 12-mile Blue River Valley Industrial Corridor (BRVIC) has always required an understanding of the Blue River and respect for what it can do. The winding waterway is central to conditions in the Corridor. Working with engineers who know the situation well can keep the construction of a commercial operation out of rough water. As you contemplate building plans, factor in a few realities anchored in our experience.
Flooding is Front and Center
When industrial operations first emerged along the Blue River a century ago, flooding arrived with them and became part of the price of doing business. It’s hard to imagine how companies kept going before the $300 million Blue River Channel Project began in the 1960s. The flood control initiative took a lot of creative problem-solving and about three decades to complete. The result is a massive improvement highlighted by substantially more capacity to keep rising water within the Blue River’s banks.
Thanks to flood control, FEMA’S 100-year floodplain map in the Corridor has shrunk to just 1,500 acres or about a third of the Corridor’s total size. Many northern properties within the Corridor have greatly benefited but other properties remain in the floodplain and local authorities continue work to support them.
Land in and around a floodplain needs extensive evaluation before a construction project begins. Findings on the surface and underground will likely impact construction budgeting and planning as contractors look for opportunities to make adjustments that minimize the flood risk. The upfront specialized work is well worth it and ensures peace of mind that’s hard to put a price on.
Respect the Slope
When you’re thinking about building near the Blue River, think carefully about how your plans could impact the river’s slope. Slope stability is the ability of inclined soil to withstand movement. Too much digging or other changes near a slope can threaten its stability, which invites erosion and other problems that undermine the support of nearby structures. Extensive excavation and large amounts of fill soil may not be an option. Input from geotechnical engineers will help ensure smart decisions to avoid the risk of serious foundation cracks down the road or even the potential for collapse.
You don’t want to invest in the construction of a building that develops serious foundation cracks or in some cases, the potential for collapse.
‘Do not disturb’ is a smart priority when working with land near a river, but it might require creative support for your structure’s foundation. Seasoned geotechnical engineers with experience in the area can collaborate with your build team on foundation platform options if necessary.
A foundation platform should give sufficient support and may help minimize the need for digging and importing soil. The right platform for your project can allow you to build in existing soil and avoid the risks that come with deconstructing the river’s slope. It could also be far more budget-friendly than common alternatives.
Beware of Buoyancy
When you push an empty bottle into a bucket of water, the water tends to push the bottle back up. Simply put, that’s a buoyancy force at work. Water that seeps into soil can have the same effect. A river can saturate the surrounding soil underground to create buoyancy forces that impact construction. The bigger the river, the bigger the force, as we discovered while working with KCP&L along the Missouri River. The Blue River is smaller but shouldn’t be underestimated.
Knowing how close to the Blue River you can safely build depends on the soil profile in the area. Investigating surface and subsurface conditions, and groundwater levels is critical in determining whether buoyancy forces or other issues will impact project plans. You’ll want the help of geotechnical engineers who can perform a comprehensive analysis that considers a variety of factors like seasonal fluctuations in groundwater conditions along a river.
Proper assessment of buoyancy forces pinpoints the critical balance between a building and the ground beneath it. The downward gravitational force of the structure must be stronger than the upward buoyancy force. Geotechnical engineers can help ensure the right calculations and adjustments for keeping your structure firmly in place.
Experience Builds Confidence
Skipping over the evaluation of a BRVIC property in context of the river is not recommended. The careful collaboration of the build team from the ground up is the right way to move forward, especially when fielding curveballs and unknowns that are typical in the Corridor. A team experienced in working both near a river and specifically within the BRVIC is the key to building with confidence.
The soil in the BRVIC is a fundamental factor for any new construction and the river makes the situation even more complex. The good news is the right experts and the right approach can realize your vision without burying your budget, and you’ll be on your way to reaping the rewards of doing business in such a great location in the heart of America.
Read about a project in our ongoing work with Custom Truck One Source in the Blue River Valley Industrial Corridor. >>
See how we helped KCP&L counter river forces in the upgrade of its Hawthorne Generation Station. >>