Spotlight on Southwestern Illinois Commercial Construction
National Great Rivers Research Center-Phase II, Alton, Contegra Construction Co.
By ALAN J. ORTBALS
Contegra Construction completed work on the $5.5 million second phase of the National Great Rivers Research Center in Alton earlier this year. Erin Morris was Contegra’s project manager on the job.
The iconic National Great Rivers Research and Education Center serves as an international center for science, education and public outreach. Its stated goal is to improve the sustainable management of large rivers. The center is a joint venture of Lewis and Clark Community College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Illinois Natural History Survey.
Phase II consisted of an addition of new labs, offices and a 100-person conference room with a panoramic glass wall overlooking the river. It also included the installation of mesocosms — a mechanism used in scientific studies that brings a small part of the natural environment under controlled conditions. Mesocosms provide a link between observational field studies that take place in natural environments and controlled laboratory experiments that may take place under somewhat unnatural conditions. The center’s mesocosms were constructed for the study of fish and other wildlife and require pumping 2 million gallons of water into the concrete channels each day.
While one might think that pumping water to structures that are a few feet from the Mississippi River would be a pretty easy task that was not the case, according to Morris.
“Building a new river intake structure would have been in the $4 million to $6 million range,” Morris said. “In this case, Contegra and Lewis and Clark were able to work out a deal to tap onto the system that was already in place down the road at the Dynegy power plant. They already had that infrastructure in place so, we ran a 16-inch water main about a half mile down the road to the power plant. We took that pipe inside the power plant and tapped onto an existing system. We had to run it under the railroad track and the highway but it saved the project millions by not building a new one.”
The Phase II addition mimics the remarkable architectural design of the Phase I structure.