Instream Water Control Projects is a Lethbridge, Alberta– based water control gate company that has been building and maintaining water control gates across the United States and Canada since 2006. It specializes in overshot and radial gates and has recently installed 10 gates of truly gargantuan proportions in an emergency spillway at Alberta’s Bassano Dam. In this interview, Frank Stang, Trevor Hazell, andRyan Morgan of Instream Water Control Projects speak with Irrigation Leader Editor-in-Chief Kris Polly about Instream’s history and its recent projects.
Kris Polly: Tell us about your backgrounds and how you came to be in your current positions.
Frank Stang: I grew up on a farm. Having left the farm when I was 18, I hope that at 64 I still have a little farm background. By schooling, I am an engineering technologist. When I graduated from college, I realized that I was not really an 8-to-5 type of guy. I love being independent. When the opportunity arose to get into the sales side of things, I didn’t think I was cut out for it, but I ended up embracing it. I worked for Armtec, a Canadian supplier of water control gates, for 20 years. A water control gate business is tough to maintain if you’re working only on sales, not service, because water control gates need constant service. The company decided they didn’t want to go in that direction.
In 2006, I started Instream to do that work. We design and manufacture water control gates. It started with the irrigation industry, and now we’re getting into the municipal sector as well. It was just me in 2006, but as the company grew, I hired more employees. Today, there are seven of us.
We are based in Lethbridge, Alberta, a city of about 100,000 people about 3 hours north of Great Falls, Montana. We operate out of a building that we’ve been in since 2012. The reason that I started the company here is that southern Alberta has the highest concentration of irrigation districts anywhere in Canada. There are 13 irrigation districts in
this area with something like a million and a half acres of irrigated land. It is a dry, arid area; without water, we wouldn’t be growing the crops that grow here. As a result, this is a hotbed for irrigation supply equipment.
During the first 6 years, all the business I did was based in the United States. I did gates in California; Central Florida; Idaho; Port Arthur, Texas; and Utah. There’s one gate that we do, and that nobody else really got into, called the overshot gate.
Kris Polly: Tell us about your work with large radial gates.
Frank Stang: That’s probably one of the most common types of gate we do. Radial gates go back hundreds of years, and every district has one.
Kris Polly: How large are the gates you build?
Frank Stang: We just completed the largest single project that I’ve ever done in my 35 years in the business at Bassano Dam, which is one of the biggest reservoirs in southern Alberta for the storage of irrigation water. It is about 21⁄2 hours from our plant. We built 10 epoxy-coated gates, each 35 feet wide and 14 feet high, complete with electric cable-driven hoist systems, stainless-steel embedments, 10 emergency stop logs, and the lifting device. We just completed the installation of all these components. The owner, Eastern Irrigation District, commissioned them in April of this year. The total investment cost was in the $50 million range.
Kris Polly: What was the gauge of steel?
Trevor Hazell: The front skin plate was 3/8 plate—that’s probably the most significant measurement for a radial gate. There are also some really large I-beams that reinforce the back side of the gate, which is 18 inches deep. It involved a massive amount of steel.
Kris Polly: Approximately how much does one of those gates weigh?
Trevor Hazell: About 42,000 pounds.
Kris Polly: How many pieces do those gates break down into for shipment?
Trevor Hazell: The radial gate itself was actually built in one piece. Two arms are bolted onto that, and those two arms are bolted onto the trunnion beams that are attached to the wall. Instream completed everything from the fabrication of the components to their installation, commissioning, and testing. I was on site as the supervisor for the installation of all 10 gates. From start to finish, each gate took 10 days, including all the bottom sills and side-rubbing plates that were embedded in the concrete structure, all the secondary concrete, and the lifting in of the gates, hoists, and hoist decks. It took us about 100 days in total.
Ryan Morgan: We also supply a full, ready-to-install hoist- frame assembly. These hoists are sent out fully assembled; we don’t send them out in pieces. The contractors can basically pick them up with their cranes and set them right on top of the decks. This takes the guesswork out of trying to make sure all the cross shafts and gear boxes are aligned properly. We do it all in a controlled shop environment.
Kris Polly: What was the motivation behind the installation of these large radial gates?
Frank Stang: These gates are a part of the emergency spillway for the dam. About 5 years ago, there was a lot of rain and a lot of flooding. They just about lost this dam because they couldn’t spill enough water through the ordinary gates, of which there are about 25. After this emergency, Eastern Irrigation District, which is one of the biggest irrigation districts in this area, along with the Alberta-based irrigation consultant MPE Engineering, decided that it needed to incorporate another structure. The district built this emergency spillway for that reason.
Kris Polly: I understand that you’ve done a lot of work on similar gates for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers in the United States. Is that correct?
Ryan Morgan: We are working on two or three projects with Reclamation in Colorado and Idaho, and we’ve done a fair bit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a project outside of Salt Lake City called the Bear River Refuge.
Kris Polly: Approximately how many projects do you think you’ve done in the United States?
Frank Stang: I’ve been working in the United States for over 15 years, and I did about a dozen jobs a year there for a while. I would say the total has got to be around 75–100.
Kris Polly: What is your message to irrigation district managers and their boards of directors?
Frank Stang: My top message is that you can rely on us. We will give you straightforward answers to help you get on with your business. We’re not here just to sell. We’re here to make sure that when people call, they get the advice that is most useful to them and their business, not the advice that will help us sell the most.
We want to let our clients know that there are solutions to their problems and that we are trying to be that solution. We’ve got good people, we’ve got good staff, we’ve got good knowledge, and we’d love to be able to do your work, wherever and whenever you need us, whether that is in Alberta, in Great Falls, or across the United States.
Frank Stang is president, founder, and senior partner of Instream Water Control Projects. He can be reached at email@example.com or (403) 330-9218. Trevor Hazell is managing partner and project manager at Instream. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (403) 831-2935. Ryan Morgan is the major projects design lead and partner at Instream. He can be reached at email@example.com or (403) 669-2227.