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Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City Office Early Years – 1979 through the 1980s
By Jim Schwing and Sheldon Barker, December 2017

The Salt Lake City (SLC) office opened in 1979 to provide water engineering services in Utah. Under the CH2M HILL management model at that time, the office was an area office to the BOI Region and under David Bennion, the BOI Regional Manager at the time. The first office was located in an office park near the Salt Lake International Airport. The first SLC Office Manager was Larry Stanley, who moved to SLC from BOI for this assignment. Also in 1979, we purchased a local mining firm of around 15 people led by Bill Bluck, who is now retired and living in Helena, MT. Bill runs his own hunting and fishing guide service in Helena. Bill was assigned as the new Office Manager, allowing Larry to return to the BOI Office. 1979 was a real busy year for CH2M HILL in Salt Lake City. That’s when we also hired our first water rainmaker (pun intended), Bill Luce, from a small firm that was eventually purchased by Montgomery Engineers. Bill Luce’s initial assignment was to help develop water and wastewater opportunities.

Bill Luce and CH2M HILL met with success by winning our first water project: the Murray, UT, Storm Drainage Master Plan, followed by the design of a 66-inch storm drain through the Mick Riley Golf Course. This 1-mile-long drain was designed in the Denver Office.

Next, we were selected by Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities to conduct the 201 Wastewater Planning Study for the city. This project was managed by Dave Evans; and we went on to provide predesign, design, and services during construction at the city’s Water Reclamation Plant (WRP). Dave was assisted in this work by Tom Krumsick from the BOI Office providing wastewater process engineering. When Dave moved on to another assignment, Tom moved from BOI to SLC and became our Project Manager during the final design and construction phases. Based upon the solid foundation set by both Dave and Tom, we continue to provide services at the WRP. Recent projects include a biosolids management plan, and predesign, design, and services during construction for three new anaerobic digesters. This work was managed by Jim Schwing.

Back to Bill Luce’s efforts – Bill mostly concentrated on water and wastewater services marketing. And during that period, we won hydropower work with the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District and also for the City of Logan. Bill Luce left CH2M HILL in early 1983 when he returned to Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH). With Bill’s departure from CH2M HILL, Sheldon Barker from the BOI Office relocated to SLC to assume the Office Management and water marketing role. Sheldon led the growth of the office until the end of the 1980s. One of the real spark plugs for office growth was the tremendously snowy and wet year in 1983. The snow pack was record setting; and the weather stayed cold until Memorial Day, when the weather switched instantly from winter to summer, with temperatures jumping to the high 90s. Runoff was so severe that several of the main streets in SLC were closed and converted to rivers, with bridges built across the intersections. This ultimately led to a special session of the legislature where emergency repairs were authorized on the Jordan River between Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake. In a very quick proposal and interview, CH2M HILL was selected to design the project. Our team was led by Bruce Johnson, with major help from Jerry Eggleston and Mike Collins. Ultimately, the project led to Mike Collins transferring from BOI to SLC; and Mike eventually became the Office Manager.

Unfortunately, the 1980s were very difficult times in the energy and minerals markets; and our mining group slowly withered away. Some salvation occurred as the Super Fund market started really growing with the reclamation of old mining sites. Bill Bluck seized upon this growth opportunity; and, eventually (also in the late 1980s), Bill transferred to Denver to help with remediation of Superfund mining sites under the USEPA’s REM/FIT and subsequently Alternative Remedial Contracting Strategy (ARCS) programs in USEPA Region VIII. In 1985, Sheldon relocated the office from the airport area to downtown to take advantage of the central location that included proximity to Salt Lake City and State of Utah Government agencies.

In the early 1980s, the water market struggled along with the national economy. The one infrastructure area that remained strong was transportation, and that gave Sheldon the opportunity to work at developing the work with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), resulting in two major projects. The first was an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Route Study for U.S. Highway 89 from Logan, UT, over the mountains north to Bear Lake. Stan Nuffer from Boise was our Project Manager. We were also successful at winning the final design for several miles of U.S. 40 south from its interchange with Interstate 80, a few miles east of Park City, UT.

Other Utah projects executed at the time include ongoing hydropower development and design for the City of Logan and the design and construction-related services for an 18-million-gallon post-tensioned reservoir for the Central Utah Water Conservancy District (CUWCD). Work on this project proved the enduring quality of our corporate culture in winning and growing client relations. When the tank was first built, there was an unknown problem with the water stop between the foundation and the floor. The tank leaked so badly we could not even fill it for testing. But our Project Manager, Bill Johnson, and his structural team spent 1.5 years working with the client (and without additional compensation) identifying and resolving the problem. The client was so impressed with our commitment that he proceeded to give us a huge tunnel project in Provo Canyon.

UDOT, Salt Lake City, Logan, and CUWCD continue to be strategic Salt Lake City clients to this day.