Tunnel Construction and NAWAPA
February 20, 2011 • 8:12PM

By Thomas C. Taylor

Construction Consultant
Las Cruces, NM

The North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) Project brings water from the northern coastal regions to the south to provide fresh water to the regions of Canada, the United States and northern Mexico. The plan was conceived in 1964 by the Ralph M. Parsons Company in 1964 and funded in preliminary study form by this company. This giant water resources project was never built, but parts of similar smaller water projects have been built and solve smaller water requirements for isolated regions of the American Southwest like Los Angeles, Phoenix and other locations. A tunnel on one of these smaller California Water projects was the author's first job as a Civil Engineer working in construction. This paper explores the NAWAPA Project Tunnels required and provides information to help recreate a modern version of this 1964 project to build wealth for America and create 4 plus million jobs for our citizens. This water resources project will re-energize the North American Continent with fresh water and provide a stimulus for agriculture, power, new industries, transportation, recreation, ground water recharge and cooperation with our neighbor countries. Tunnels provide the key to the movement of water from as far north as the arctic and raise the water to effectively use the existing mountains and the northern regions of fresh water runoff now lost into the oceans. Tunnels are the links between large mountain reservoirs, rivers and canals used to transport water to where it is needed and wanted by others. The project builds wealth for our nation and strengths our economy, creates jobs that can't be exported overseas, effectively uses our natural resources, expands existing and new markets for America, and enhances the value of America's agricultural breadbasket that helps feed much of the world by providing increased irrigation and recharging of our underground aquifers.


THIS paper focuses on tunnels and the design, construction and use of the tunnels to move fresh water from the regions of coast of Alaska to the American southwest. Each tunnel is an individual local construction project that over several years employs thousands of workers, designers and water resource workers to construct the projects, place them into operation and manage them for a hundred years. Most things in today's world do not last 100 years, but hydroelectric power generation plants don't require fossil fuels or create climate change like the , rock tunnels don't wear out, dams last long periods and the recharge and management of our water within America's underground aquifers is an investment in our future as a nation. The NAWAPA Tunnel projects tie the entire continental water resource system together and are required to move this fresh water to regions where the water is needed.

But what does the average taxpayer person really want to know?

• If you are looking for work, then does this NAWAPA Project provide jobs and strengthen our country in our time of need? Yes, it will create about 4 million in the American West, will take 30 years to complete and helps about 2/3rds of our states directly. These jobs are in America and can't be exported overseas to cheap manufacturing economies, because this builds wealth in our nation for our domestic industries that need power, manpower and innovation to grow. This NAWAPA Project and its created industries including their jobs are created within our domestic economy by providing water for the next 100 years for all of North American Continent. It can also export the technical design expertise for foreign water systems, the innovation of the tunnel boring equipment and the innovation to duplicate this water transformation into 150 areas around the globe. Every mountain range on Earth has mountain watersheds with a wet and dry side suitable for the water projects and tunnels to transform other areas on Earth using the designs, techniques, equipment and innovation used in America.

• If you are a taxpayer, then what does it cost? In 1964 it was estimated to cost ~$10Billon, which means it probably costs a trillion now. Our leaders gave trillions to save banks here and abroad and they probably didn't create any new jobs.

• If you are a farmer, then will NAWAPA bring back the groundwater level in your own irrigation wells. Yes, the ground water aquifers probably needed recharging in 1964 and now they really need recharging. NAWAPA will recharge our groundwater aquifers. The Ogallala Aquifer is under America’s agriculture belt from north Texas and New Mexico to South Dakota plus provides irrigation water for our American agriculture breadbasket that feeds the world. In 1930 this aquifer had 58' of irrigation water and this level was down to 8' in 2002.

• If you are a water resources student or many other educational disciplines required for NAWAPA and looking for a job, then will this provide employment in America and later globally. Yes, this is a job the American design industry can export overseas and get paid to help implement similar projects in many foreign countries, which also have water resource problems.

• If you are a student or other American and looking for a job, then NAWAPA will this provide employment in America and later globally. The 1964 work by Parsons indicated 4 million jobs would be created. Real new jobs multiple in the economy by 2 to 3 times the original job created.

The North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) Plan is to bring fresh water from the Pacific coastal rain and arctic regions to areas on the North American continent that need more water. It was a great plan and should have been done. America choose to enter a war in southeast Asia and probably spent orders of magnitude more on that war than NAWAPA would have cost. The NAWAPA Plan was produced by the Ralph M. Parsons Company of Los Angeles in 1964 on their own money. The report created significant interest in the Congress, but failed to get started at the time period. Since 1964, America has fought three wars counting Viet Nam and some within our country believe little wars eat up our budgets and keep America from maintaining a leadership in many of the budget areas important to a leader nation. NAWAPA project was thought to cost about $1B in 1964 and could produce 4 million jobs in America. These jobs are, of course, are hard to move overseas, because these jobs build wealth and fixed water resource assets on American soil, while water energizes a number of American industries on American soil.. A similar fresh water problem is also in various stages of being realized in many countries around the world and could help jump-start for our nation's design firms in the American jobs at a time of great need for jobs. The NAWAPA Project could, in fact export jobs and equipment. American Design firms do many engineering and design jobs overseas on Water Resources Projects. Jobs and technical expertise in water resources development design and tunneling Equipment is sold to foreign countries with water resource development projects. The transfer of water from the wet sides of mountain ranges to the dry side of mountain ranges is the best solution to irrigation for food growth expansion and water shortages all over the world. The introduction to more affordable Tunneling solutions and the increased capability of Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) both provide the method of transferring the water from one reservoir or existing river to another and provide American job expertise and specialized TBM machine equipment exports to the rest of the world.

The basic design of each tunnel including length, diameter is contained in the preliminary 1964 Parsons report. This report data is expanded and explained to provide increased interest within the various American communities of people with projects in their local area. The jobs to complete these NAPAWA projects, to operate them and also increases the electrical energy generated, which furthers the availability of affordable electrical energy in these same mountain regions plus agriculture regions down stream and increases the economic support for the entire project within our nation. Specific tunnels are highlighted in one local region of the entire project to give the local reader with a local perspective on their nearby projects and how these projects could provide jobs, water, electrical sales and increased local economy growth.

Most local residents and politicians at all levels including the Congressional delegations need to be excited about the NAWAPA project in today's world and understand the increased need for the fresh water and the economy building aspects of the 4 million jobs that needed more now than ever before in our country's history. In 1964, the need for water was great, but the need has increased in the nearly 50 years without NAWAPA and stimulated various unconnected water projects. NAWAPA is continental plan and compliment these smaller water projects. This paper explores the project goals in a local area and how it could add wealth, jobs, new industries like electrical generation and other positive impacts on local economies that need water, jobs, new industries that can't be exported overseas.

Tunnel Boring Machines and NAWAPA

1. Tunnel boring machines and TBM manufacturers

A TBM or tunnel boring machine (TBM) is a machine usually specifically designed for each tunnel based on the rock conditions. The TBM is used to excavate tunnels by a circular rotating cutter head, usually with a circular cross section through a variety of soil and rock strata with an increasing ability to accommodate unexpected changes in face conditions at the excavation face. The type and other rock conditions have a great deal of effect on the TBM design and the difficulty in obtaining this accurate geological data diminishes the value of the TBM to accomplish the tunnel project.

The tunnel boring machine (TBM) manufacturers and the tunnel construction companies that use these machines have a vested interest in promoting, studying, researching into better machines and construction contracts requiring TBMs plus the exploration of future projects that may use such leading edge devices. The amount of money invested in R and D into improvements in TBMs varies greatly from country to country and maybe dependent on the method of contracting this type of tunnel work to be let into actual contracts. Japan does a lot of construction R/D, for example, probably mostly supported by government, but some supported by actual construction firms. In the United States construction R/D by contactors is diminished, probably because highly competitive heavy construction contracts don't support or provide the additional money spent on R & D, which in America we call this “hard money” contracting. In the Aerospace industry R & D is encouraged and partly supported by government and the result has been a global leadership position by American Aerospace industry.

2. Government R & D budgets

In the United States construction R & D would be a good place to invest government R & D budgets, especially in areas where future expenditures by government are expected to increase. The American interstate system is a good example. General Eisenhower saw the Autobahns of Germany in World War II and came to America and started better highways in America, partly by giving highways more money and a partly military transportation requirement, like they probably had in Germany.

Better construction and more automation of highway building methods would have been a good place to spent R & D money after WWII, because each dollar spent would have returned many fold in reduced construction costs for the 60,000 mile American Interstate Highway System. There is not much evidence of a huge R & D push for highway technology improvements in the later 1940s or early 1950s, but the author suspects some highway construction R & D money was spent. The American push was different in Space hardware in the later1940s or early 1950s thru today resulted in winning the “Cold War,” etc. President Eisenhower later in a speech after the Russians embarrassed him by shooting down an American spy plane over Russia, called these early space people, the military industrial complex and they are still with us.

The American Aerospace industry, in contrast, lives and grows stronger on government R & D dollars and tends to get fat and expensive, including too fat to the point of being uncompetitive with our space Launch vehicles in the world economy. American aerospace seems to over use the technique of R & D financed by government and in its extreme cases combines it with military security requirements to use the technique to become an American industry in our current global commercial environment that can't sell launches overseas and as the world catches up with our aerospace technology lead, America won't be able to sell other aerospace wares overseas either. The author believes the tunnels required in America’s and mankind’s future require an American industry to lead in the tunnel field and Research and Development in part funded by the government will provide the TBMs of the future to build these tunnels in America and on the rest of our Planet and eventually other Planets. The author recommends steps be taken to increase our nation’s R and D in this tunneling construction industry to include innovation in equipment, construction techniques and related items including cost.

Tunnel construction contracting and its R & D is a little different, now somewhat less technical, but in some ways like the aerospace industry, because the government investment in a Tunneling Contracting R & D push now can produce huge dividends in the tunneling contracting in the future for the 50 tunnels of NAWAPA and the Bering Straits tunnels envisioned now and future tunneling around the world, but requiring some advancement in tunneling equipment technology. The author estimates possibly 150 long tunnel projects around the world that also could benefit from the investment Tunneling Contracting R & D by governments around the world.

This estimated 150+ each long tunnels is an estimate of the future market that includes every mountain range on Earth with a dry and wet side. This does not include the NAWAPA Tunnels. Every overcrowded region that needs to go underground to save money on utilities. Every transportation corrider that needs a boast. Even future concepts like vacuum tube transit in the transportation industry wait for more effective and affordable tunneling capability. Every NAWAPA water project tunnel builds wealth for our country and enlarges America's agricultural bread basket with innovative irrigation and groundwater recharge techniques as we pass 7 billion mouths to feed on Earth. Fresh Water is the next big commodity like oil was for the last few generations.

In 100 years every planet mankind tries to migrate toward will use this tunneling technology to an even greater benefit. This Tunneling Equipment design and production of TBMs is a specialized industry that America could lead globally, if it acts and pushes right now toward commercial methods of enhancing our tunneling technology through government incentives to enhance commercial R & D Technology in tunneling machines and construction technology to use them. The goal would be to do it in some manner that does not duplicate the over reaching that has occurred in the aerospace industry and create commercial industry advances that can not be quickly duplicated by an industrialized China or other nations capable of producing consumer products economically using low cost labor.

The typical tunnel contract has more risk, longer durations, very specialized equipment and generally attracts only a small group of companies with the capability to accept the additional level of risk of a tunnel contract and have the more specialized experienced construction organizations of medium and upper management staffs capable of accomplishing the tunnel completion.

TBMs are bought from even more specialized manufacturing companies that could advance many fold in their innovative products with some additional Tunneling Contracting R & D financing. This Tunneling Contracting R & D financing and investment by governments could increase the capability of their existing domestic companies to create more effective and affordable tackle more challenging projects and to make money in a highly specialized segment of the overall field of heavy construction tunnel contracting.

3. TBMs – Current capabilities with TBMs

Longest TBM - ALIMINETI MADHAVA REDDY (AMR) PROJECT, Andhra Pradesh, India, At 43.5 km (27 mi), the Alimineti Madhava Reddy (AMR) Project will be the longest tunnel without intermediate access in the world when complete in 2012. http://www.robbinstbm.com/project-results/

“Largest Diameter TBM - The largest diameter TBM, at 15.43 m (50.6 feet), was built by Herrenknecht AG for a recent project in Shanghai, China. The machine was built to bore through soft ground including sand and clay. The largest diameter hard rock TBM, at 14.4 m, was manufactured by the Robbins Company for Canada's Niagara Tunnel Project. The machine is currently boring a hydroelectric tunnel beneath Niagara Falls, the machine has been named "Big Becky" in reference to the Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric dams to which it is tunneling to provide an additional hydroelectric tunnel.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niagara_Tunnel_Project

4. TBM Manufacturers

1. Herrenknecht AG

The largest diameter TBM, at 15.43 m, was built by Herrenknecht AG for a recent project in Shanghai, China. The Chinese are probably duplicating that machine for other projects. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_boring_machine

Herrenknecht AG is a German manufacturer of tunnel boring machines of all sizes. Herrenknecht is headquartered in Allmannsweier near Schwanau and is the world market leader for heavy tunnel boring machines. Roughly two-thirds of the 1850 employees work at the company headquarters and roughly 300 work at three different locations in China.

As of 2005, Herrenknecht holds the world record for constructing the largest tunnel diameter boring machines in the world, at 19 meters (62 ft) diameter.

2. The Robbins Company

A hard rock TBM, at 14.4 m, was manufactured by the Robbins Company for Canada's Niagara Tunnel Project. The machine is currently boring a hydroelectric tunnel beneath Niagara Falls, the machine has been named "Big Becky" in reference to the Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric dams to which it is tunneling to provide an additional hydroelectric tunnel. http://www.robbinstbm.com/project-results/

The tunnel boring machine industry is an active global industry with a growing capability and market. The TBMs have become more capable of longer and larger tunnels.

TBM Contact List
The Robbins Company (Headquarters)
General Sales: [email protected]
TBM Sales: [email protected]
Herrenknecht AG, http://www.herrenknecht.com/herrenknecht-ag-en/companystructure.html

Other TBM Manufacturers exist and can be found on the internet.

Technology Note: Many of the tunnels proposed for NAWAPA are larger in diameter than have ever been attempted by Mankind. Some of the tunnels proposed by NAWAPA are also sometimes longer than previously achieved. Neither of these issues need to stop or deter us from constructing the NAWAPA tunnels or proposing the TBMs as a solution for the 50 NAWAPA Tunnels or the Bering Straits tunnels. Not every tunnel lends itself to be excavated by a tunnel boring machine and different types of machines exist and other machine designs have been proposed. The TBM is designed to bore thru rock of a specific hardness and composition plus some function flexibility to response to a variety ground conditions. The TBMs can be designed to cover a broader range of rock types, but there are limits. When the tunnel rock is not consistent, then the TBM works less well. Shattered rock is also a problem of support, so the ability to provide varying degrees of support by the TBM is also important. The reasons for problems in the TBM industry are mainly inconsistent rock, fractured rock areas or rock and water that varies too much over the tunnel distance. The longer lengths of modern tunnels brings another issue. The length of the tunnel creates a long and constricted logistics corridor for power, air and other items into the tunnel face and muck or rock removal, water away from the tunnels face. Increased length magnifies these issues. These problems are helped by increasing the number of access locations to the tunnel route to create a tunneling face going both directions and making logistics easier. Each tunnel is different, but some long tunnels do provide options for intermediate access. The amount of access can vary from a drilled hole from the top for just air and/or power to decrease the length of tunnel power systems or complete access thru a side access tunnel or shaft that can dispose of muck and truly provide full access to double tunnel faces. Intermedicate access to the tunnel route, for example, can add locations along the route that permit the introduction of two TBMs at the easier locations along the route solutions sometimes are able to significantly decrease the project time to completion. The TBM is usually buried at the point of completion or removed from the tunnel and discarded.

Technology advances can change the tunnel industry and experts from TBM manufactures could probably isolate the areas of Research and Development that could provide the most enhancement of the tunneling technology an increased effectiveness of this portion of the construction industry.

5. New Tunnel Technology and Where to Get It?

The author has long dreamed of a machine like a TBM that melts rock and creates a tunnel. My first civilian job after the military was on hard rock water tunnel in southern California. This was my first job after military service in SE Asia and the tunnel collapsed 3 weeks before I reported for work.

Increased technology advancements could include potential melting rock or almost any other substance including metal that could be done. The melting of rock or even harder substances is now possible with a thermal lance. The process is expensive and uses various gases concentrated on material to be melted.

“The thermal lance, thermic lance, or burning bar is a tool that burns iron in the presence of pressurized oxygen to create very high temperatures for cutting. It consists of a long iron tube packed with iron rods, sometimes mixed with aluminum or magnesium rods to increase the heat output. One end of the tube is placed in a holder and oxygen is fed through the tube. The temperature at which a thermal lance burns varies depending the environment. Kosanke gives the maximum temperature to be 4,770 K (8,130 °F), while Haorong calculates it to be 3,000 K (4,940 °F).” More information is available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_lance

The melting of a tunnel by the above methods is likely to be more expensive than existing methods.

Melting Rock for a Tunnel So the melting of rock and harder materials like metal are possible, but need to be less expensive. As it turns out this melting of solid rock will probably take less heat and creates several additional problems, when applied to tunneling, but may provide some advantages as well. The future of tunneling methods may fall in this area or a completely different area, but we may need to find this new research area to elevate the tunneling industry to meet the challenge of this constantly growing and emerging market. Early mankind worked with stone and became quite good at it as evidenced by the pyramids and early cave man walls where chipping and other methods were used.

Some of the problems of “Melting Rock for a Tunnel” include:

1. How do you get power to the machine? What power is needed?, Source of the power, etc. Can the power source be brought into the tunnel and controlled by man to produce a tunnel of potentially longer distances and increased diameter?

2. Melting rock takes a lot of power. Can the power be controlled sufficiently to possibly become partly molten as volcano lava that comes in many forms depending on the heat and maybe the type of rock.

3. Sealing the tunnel is also required for some solutions. Earth has a series of hot spots geologically where the Earth’s mantle and the surface are close enough to provide a series of volcano islands that seem to indicate a differential or difference in the speed of travel between the surface and the hot spot some miles below the surface volcano. The Hawaiian Islands are like this. There is little evidence of Tectonic plate scrapping as evident in the ring of fire around the Pacific Ocean. The Hawaiian Islands has to the south of the big island, a volcano still under underwater, but eventually it will build to become the next in a string of Hawaiian Islands. Motion pictures of the hot lava flowing or meeting the cooler ocean reminds the author of a fireworks tab that when ignited by a match expands, cools and forms a snake like appendage that cools quickly similar to the underwater lava cooling. Can this molten rock cooling process by controlled, be formed before or during cooling, to be strong enough to be of structural value?

4. What does one do with the muck or excavated rock? Can this rock be initiated, controlled, used for excavation of rock and extra rock volume be possibly made lighter to near buoyancy to be floated out of the tunnel? Can molten rock be reformed into an effective tunnel lining?

5. Can such a tunneling machine be used under ground, be underwater or in a tunnel that is partially or completely filled with water and still work effectively, maybe in an unmanned mode?

6. Would unmanned TBMs be supported by unions that generally encourage more jobs not less manpower or could a new industry be created and embraced by labor unions, because this new innovation expands the industry capability, may decrease costs, but greatly increases the number of tunnel jobs and requires more tunnel project manpower/jobs. Would the new tunneling method ever be less expensive than current methods? Would the new tunneling method permit longer tunnels of greater diameters? The NAWAPA tunnels seem to demand longer tunnels, greater diameters and reduced costs.

7. How does the industry move tunneling technology from where it is right now (drill and blast, tunnel rotary rock crushers or TBMs, drilled holes with back reamers, etc.) to a new enhanced state of tunneling technology?

8. Other ideas and questions are welcome: The author has dreamed up several solutions to solve these new technology problems and fortunately others have also been working on similar problems and technology to solve them.

6. Current Technology within Existing Patent Search

New advancements could emerge and the following patent is an example of one direction.

The Subterrene
Patent number: 3,885,832
Filing date: Jan 25, 1974
Issue date: May 1975

"A Subterrene is a type of tunneling machine, similar to that of a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). A subterrene works by utilizing forward pressure and massive amounts of heat to push through rock. The front of the machine is equipped with a stationary drill tip which is kept between to 1,300–1,700 °F (700–930 °C). The molten rock leftover from drilling is immediately turned into a glass-like material and coats the inner diameter of the tunnel, creating an initial tunnel liner. Massive amounts of energy are required to heat the drill head, which is supplied via nuclear power or electricity. All of this is in stark contrast to traditional TBMs, which grind away at rock instead, however the results are similar. Patents issued in the 1970s indicate that US scientists had planned on utilizing nuclear power to liquefy lithium metal and circulate it to the front of the machine (drill). Soviet Union also have been known to have a military program dedicated to the creation of subterrenes. It was called "Battle Mole"("Boyevoy Krot" in Russian). The prototype has been produced and successfully tested until its nuclear reactor blew out. ....In theory, tunnels can be built much more cheaply and much more quickly because of their reduced complexity, equipment costs and operational overhead. A smooth glasslined tunnel wall is created as a result of the process. This can further reduce costs and provides an insulated barrier and basic support structure...” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subterrene


The introduction of a focused R & D program leading to cooperation between government and the construction industry on TBM equipment and tunneling techniques could provide payback significant dividends for America. The result could be faster completion and more affordable costs for the 1180 miles of NAWAPA Tunnels and the emergence of longer tunnels worldwide for water resource projects and many other uses. The technology enhancement of the TBMs could be similar to the technology advancement techniques used by NASA to advance technology in the space program.

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