Anchorage contractor set to remove excavator

Posted: Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facil-ities has awarded Thomas Devel-opment Inc. of Anchorage the contract to remove the excavator stuck at Sevena Lake in Soldotna.

The terms of the contract state that the excavator, owned by Airport Rental Equipment on Kalifornsky Beach Road, is to be delivered to the warm storage building at the DOT's maintenance yard in Soldotna by Dec. 31, said Central Region Maintenance and Operations Chief Chris Kepler.

The excavator will be thawed out and "assessed for damage and needed repairs," he said.

The equipment became stuck Dec. 9, while attempting to free a bulldozer and Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement pickup from a bog.

J.R. Thomas will be in charge of the operation and emphasizes preparation.

"The main thing is getting geared up right," he said.

Thomas plans to dig the 22-ton excavator out with a 44-ton cousin he's bringing up from Seward. Then he'll use an oil field rig-up truck with a 30-ton capacity boom winch to pluck the steel carcass out of the muck.

That's the easy part. First he has to build a road out to the target over the bog, he said.

The road Thomas plans to build will be made of logs, diamond-plate steel and wooden mats designed to support heavy equipment on soft ground.

"You need really good mats" if you don't want to end up in the bog yourself, Thomas said.

But the precautions don't stop there. He also plans on driving a couple 8-inch pipes into the ground and tying the trucks off to the "deadmen" with cables.

That's the plan. However, to paraphrase Murphy's Law, anything that can go wrong when operating heavy machinery over an icy swamp, will.

"You gotta be really careful one screw up, you're off (the mats)," Thomas said.

If all goes well, the staging should take two to three days and the actual removal only two to three hours, which means the job could be done as soon as the day after Christmas, he said.

Thomas last freed a stuck excavator near Delta Junction. The damage to the excavator at Sevena Lake is anyone's guess, but Thomas is optimistic.

"The last one I brought out, they just had to change the computer."

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