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Rognes Corp. Reconstructs a Section of Des Moines Sewer System for Increased Community and Water Safety

by: Debra Wood
Rognes Corp. crews pour a concrete cradle, then set the pipe in that cradle and pour additional concrete to encase the pipe with concrete to create a seal through the dike area.
Rognes Corp. crews pour a concrete cradle, then set the pipe in that cradle and pour additional concrete to encase the pipe with concrete to create a seal through the dike area.
The project includes structures and pipe placement.
The project includes structures and pipe placement.
Rognes Corp. Owner Warren Rognes, Vice President and Manager Cody Rognes, and Foreman Justin Sease
Rognes Corp. Owner Warren Rognes, Vice President and Manager Cody Rognes, and Foreman Justin Sease
Crews break up an old structure.
Crews break up an old structure.
Crews remove dirt on the sewer project.
Crews remove dirt on the sewer project.
Rognes Corp. crews dig 28 feet deep near the dike.
Rognes Corp. crews dig 28 feet deep near the dike.
Faced with problems with its storm and sewer systems the city of Des Moines, Iowa, designed a project to reconstruct its sewer infrastructure in the River Bend and King Irving area. Rognes Corp. was the successful low bidder.

“It’s a project to revise the storm sewer outlet,” says Warren Rognes, Owner of Rognes Corp. of Ankeny, Iowa. “It’s part of a project to eliminate sewer combined with storm water.”

The project is part of the city of Des Moines Long-Term Control Plan to stop combined sewer overflows, dumping raw sewage into the Des Moines River. The plan meets the Iowa Department of Natural Resources requirements.

Currently, when flows are greater than sewer capacity, it overloads the combined sewers and raw sewage along with the stormwater flows into the river, posing health and safety risk to people and wildlife and sewage backs up into people’s basements. The project does not alter land use, wetlands, the surrounding environment or the flood plain and was deemed of no significant impact on the environment by the state.

Reconstructing a Sewer System
Rognes Corp. is installing 400 feet of new 60-inch reinforced concrete pipe during the first phase, upgrading from a 42-inch pipe.

Crews are placing three pieces of pipe at a time. The company began working at the River Bend and King Irving project on August 1, 2021, and expected to complete it by the end of September.

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“I’m proud that our guys were able to get in there and handle a logistically tight site,” Rognes says. “They have been very efficient at laying the pipe.”

Kyle Rohlk serves as Project Manager of entire project, including the concrete crew and structure construction. Justin Sease is Foreman for the laying of the pipe, and Alex Bolbyrev Foreman for the concrete structures.

First, the team pours a concrete cradle, then sets the pipe in that cradle and pours additional concrete to encase the pipe with concrete to create a seal through the dike area.

“The dike stops the river from overflowing and flooding the area,” Rognes reports. “We have had to monitor the river levels quite stringently.”

Rognes Corp. has dealt with wet soils, increasing the challenge to successfully creating the concrete bases. On average, crews are excavating and installing the pipe at a depth of 15 feet and at the dike to 28 feet deep.

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“The project includes a gate wall structure to control the flow of the storm runoff water into the river,” Rognes explains. “Our structures crew handled it themselves.”

The gate wall is 28 feet tall and 10 feet by 8 feet wide, with 1-foot thick concrete walls.

Rognes likes to self-perform structures and other aspects of the work. It gives him greater control of the schedule and progress made.

“Self-performing all of it gives us an advantage on projects like this,” Rognes says.

The city requires Rognes Corp. to keep noise levels down and remove construction debris.

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“I’m very proud of the cooperation between all of the guys involved, including the engineers and city,” Rognes continues. “Everyone has worked together well.”

Next year, the city plans to upgrade additional sections of pipe.

The Right Equipment Makes a Difference
Rognes Corp. is using a Komatsu PC490 Excavator, a Komatsu PC138 Excavator and a Doosan DX225LC Crawler Excavator on this job.

“The 490 is a large enough excavator to handle digging to the depth we need to get through the dike and to lay the pipe,” Rognes says. “The right equipment really makes a difference.”

Rognes Corp. also rented equipment from Star Equipment in Des Moines. That includes a Wacker RTxSC3 Remote-Controlled Trench Roller for compaction; a Manitou 3200VT Track Loader; a UB Equipment skid loader mounted hydraulic breaker UB-405 for breaking up structures; and a broom for the skid loader to sweep dust off of the streets.

“We typically rent all of our smaller equipment from Star,” Rognes says. “Star has been helpful.”

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Star Equipment, founded in Des Moines in 1968, carries a large selection of new and pre-owned construction equipment, rental inventory, parts and supplies. The company focuses on light to general construction equipment and specialty products from a wide range of manufacturers.

The company sells productivity, offering the latest technology and know-how to tailor products to each customer’s needs. To keep the equipment operating in top form, Star Equipment offers on-site lube and service trucks and an in-house service department with skilled mechanics at its four Iowa branches: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Ames and Waterloo. It also rents equipment, everything from excavators and skid steers to lasers and GPS machine control units.

Throughout the years, Star Equipment has worked to ensure it has the products and equipment its clients need to safely perform their projects and meet all government regulations. Additionally, it invests heavily in employee training, so staff members understand not only the products they sell and maintain, but also how those pieces of equipment can help make their customers more profitable. The second generation of family owners – Bruce, Brad and Brett Bowman – now manage the company.

A Commitment to Excellence
Rognes Corp., established in 1994 in Ames, Iowa, prides itself on being a professional contracting firm specializing in deep sewer, water, large diameter storm sewer lines, and auger boring for municipalities, counties, and state highway departments.

“We do a lot of reconstruction and private development,” Rognes says. “We also do auger boring and tunneling. And we have a crew that does structures and concrete work. “

The family-owned and -operated Rognes Corp. works primarily in Iowa. Warren’s son, Cody Rognes, serves as Vice President and Manager of the company, which strives to treat its employees with respect and dignity.

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“A basic tenet is our commitment to excellence,” Warren Rognes says. “We want to continue to grow and provide a great workplace for our employees. We are very employee and family oriented.”

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