Schoharie Reservoir Outlet Project – Featured Archive
Schoharie Reservoir Outlet Project – Featured Archive 1024 683 Southland Holdings

Before any soil is excavated, the groundwork for a successful tunneling project is laid. This holds true for the Schoharie Reservoir Low Level Outlet (LLO) microtunneling project, situated in Gilboa, New York.

According to Project Manager John Arciszewski, meticulous planning was paramount for this undertaking. While microtunneling itself isn’t exceptionally daunting, Arciszewski pointed out that the 9.5-foot diameter Microtunnel Boring Machine (MTBM), and the depth of the shaft, reaching 160 feet, presented unique hurdles.

“Problem-solving and figuring out how to overcome challenges are some of the best parts of the job,” Arciszewski said.

Managed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), the Gilboa Dam controls Schoharie Creek to form the Schoharie Reservoir, a crucial water source supplying 15% of New York City’s water. Awarded in 2015 to a joint venture between Southland Holdings’ companies, Southland Contracting, Inc., and Oscar Renda Contracting, Inc., the $142.6 million project aimed to construct an outlet facilitating water regulation, maintenance, emergency response, and habitat enhancement downstream.

The previous LLO had been inactive since the 1960s due to sediment blockage at the inlet.

“Critical infrastructure plays a vital role in our daily life ,whether we realize it or not,” said Southland Holdings Principal Tim Winn. “Completing the Schoharie Reservoir Low Level Outlet not only improves the function of the dam, but continues providing drinking water to millions of residents of New York”.

Tunneling Triumph

Excavation for this project encompassed both challenging terrains: hard fractured rock and soft ground with cobbles. The primary tasks involved laying down 2,210 linear feet of nine-foot ID permalock casing through microtunneling, alongside the excavation of a 40-foot-diameter by 187-foot-deep gate shaft using drill and blast methods.

The tunneling efforts were segmented into a land leg and a water leg. The land leg spanned 1,225 feet, with a portion excavated using sequential excavation methods near the portal. On the other hand, the water leg extended 950 feet and was excavated by the Microtunnel Boring Machine (MTBM) through mixed terrain: starting in rock, transitioning through till, traversing lake bottom sediments, and concluding in tremied low-strength concrete at the approach to the intake structure.

A notable milestone in July 2019 was the wet retrieval of the MTBM from the reservoir bottom by Southland Contracting crew members, marking another significant achievement for the project.

“We were uplifted by the overall success achieved per our plan.” said Arciszewski. “It was definitely gratifying for everyone involved.”

NYCDEP officials were also happy with the progress.

“The completed excavation and retrieval of this tunneling machine are major milestones in our work at the Schoharie Reservoir,” NYCDEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said in a released statement. “The net release works and upgrades to our intake structure at the reservoir will provide DEP with more operational flexibility to send the best-quality drinking water to New York City, and support the ecological health of the Schoharie Creek.”

Both hydraulic and mechanical dredging methods were employed to excavate approximately 12,000 cubic yards of material from the reservoir bottom. A 35-foot-diameter cofferdam was installed at the reservoir bottom to facilitate the retrieval of the MTBM, and establish the underwater connection for the intake. Approximately 7,000 cubic yards of tremie concrete were utilized to secure the intake structure, following which, the MTBM was meticulously lifted from 160 feet below the water’s surface.

The MTBM, a pioneering creation by Herrenknecht, a German construction equipment manufacturer, was equipped with explosion-proof (Class I, Division II) electrical components, and tunnel support accessories designed for operation in “gassy” environments.

It also was given the name “Miss Diane” by Arciszewski in memory of his sister, who passed away in 2014.

“The name had a double meaning for me,” he explains. “Traditionally, a TBM is named after a girl for good luck. So, ‘Miss Diane’ was after my sister, but I also miss Diane.”

Unearthing History

As the project is wrapped up, the crew remembered the alluring New York scenery fondly.

“The area up here is incredibly beautiful,” said Arciszewski. “when you’re driving to the job site, you have a beautiful mountain view and beautiful trees. It is a great location. Everyone out here, especially longtime Southland employees, can tell you that this is a great part of the country.”

The are surrounding the Schoharie Reservoir in upstate New York has been a place locals have called home since before the United States was formed. The Gilboa settlement was established around 1760 – 16 years prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The community officially became a township in the Schoharie Creek Valley in 1848. A cotton mill within the community played an important role in the town’s early economy, but was destroyed by a flood in 1869. That natural disaster also uncovered fossil remnants of one of the world’s oldest forests, discovered by local Church minister and naturalist Samuel Lockwood.

Construction of the Gilboa dam started in the early 1920s, ending six years later. During that time, the original settlement of Gilboa was razed, and the new settlement moved north, so Schoharie Creek could be dammed to form the reservoir. Traces of the original community can be seen within the reservoir during a drought. Several hundred sections of fossilized trees were found at three sites around the old village of Gilboa. These artifacts range from 12-inches to more than three-feet in diameter. While the Gilboa Dam’s construction was underway, crews found additional fossils in a nearby quarry while they were harvesting stones for the dam. One of the quarries was excavated again in 2010 to prepare for the dam’s rehabilitation. This gave paleontologists a new opportunity to study the forest floor from millions of years ago, as well as the ability to discover additional species. Experts determined that this prehistoric forest was an intricate system of trees, smaller fern-like plants, and climbing vines. Research on the Gilboa fossils and similar finds around the world, continues to uncover additional information about some the Earth’s earliest planned communities.

Southland Contracting crew members helped transport and place one of the fossils-which weighs several hundred pounds- at the nearby Gilboa-Conesville Central School.

“As a young Gilboa student, I never really understood the unique fossils that we have here in Gilboa,” said Superintendent Ruth Reeve. “We learned about them, but reading about the and actually being up close to one are different things. I hope that by having a fossil here on school grounds our students will make the connection between what they learn in the classroom and seeing the fossil up close.”

IPL Partners – Featured Archive
IPL Partners – Featured Archive 1024 341 Southland Holdings

The DFW area has been on a long stretch of steady population growth for more than 20 years, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The 16-county region making up North Texas was expected to increase from 6.5 million to more than 9 million residents by 2023.

In the last 15 years, multiple Fortune 500 Companies have moved headquarters to the DFW area. Around 1000 people arrive in North Texas daily in search of jobs, affordable housing, and countless other opportunities the area has to offer. As the population continues to rise, so does the demand for water. For more than 45 years, Southland Holdings has been a part of the solution, providing more than one million feet of water pipeline across Texas.

“We are proud to be part of providing residents of Texas the critical infrastructure needed to get through day-to-day life” – Rudy Renda

The IPL Partners, a joint venture between Southland companies Oscar Renda Contracting (ORC) and Southland Contracting (SCI) and Johnson Brothers (JBC), was involved in constructing portions of one of the largest water infrastructure projects in North Texas for the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) and Dallas Water Utilities (DWU).

The $2.3 Billion Integrated Pipeline project consists of 150-mile pipeline, which has been split into various smaller sections, and has helped meet water demands in rapidly growing Tarrant, Dallas, and surrounding counties. The pipeline extends from Lake Palestine in East Texas to Lake Benbrook just south of Fort Worth. Southland was awarded four of the sections for the project.

IPL 19

IPL partners were awarded IPL 19 in the Summer of 2020. The project consisted of 37,120-linear-feet of 84-in water line including 14,672-linear-feet in tunnels and is projected to be completed in 2024.

IPL 17

The IPL Section 17 consisted of 3,802-linear-feet of 108-inch water line, including 2,614-linear-feet of tunnel under the Trinity River and the remainder in deep open-cut segments along the alignment of Section 17. The project reached a major milestone in February 2020 when Trinity, the 16-ft Robbins TBM, made its hole through. Workers then added 50-foot sections of 108-inch diameter steel pipe into the tunnel. This section of the project was completed in 2022.

IPL 10-11

IPL 10-11 in Mansfield was the company’s second section and was completed in 2018. The project involved the installation of 66,847-linear-feet of 84-inch welded steel water line by a combination of open-cut and tunneling methods. Work also included the installation of valves and related appurtenances, installation of cathodic protection system and various site, civil and roadway improvements, installation of an 84-in owner provided butterfly valve and related structures.

IPL 15-1

ORC started this portion of IPL 15-1 in 2014. The project is in Navarro County and more than 15-miles of 108-inch diameter raw water pipeline, spans more than 70 private parcels and includes 15 stream crossings, 15 road crossings, and one railroad crossing. The project was divided into three sections alphabetically. ORC’s portion was segment B and consisted of 25,479-linear-feet of 108-inch waterline by a combination of open-cut and tunneling methods. ORC’s portion was completed in 2015 and eight months ahead of segments A and C.

50 Years of ORC Employee Spotlight – Rod Fisher
50 Years of ORC Employee Spotlight – Rod Fisher 683 1024 Southland Holdings

Rod Fisher’s journey in the construction industry spans an impressive 47 years, marked by dedication, hard work, and a passion ignited during his middle school days. His introduction to Oscar Renda in 1972, as a coach and history teacher, laid the foundation for a lifelong connection. After an initial separation following Fisher’s 8th-grade triumph in football, fate brought them back together when Rod sought employment years later. Renda, now heading Oscar Renda Contracting, welcomed him with open arms, promising to teach him the ropes.

Joining Oscar Renda Contracting on August 15, 1975, as a green but eager learner, Fisher started as a laborer, emphasizing the importance of every role in the construction process. Evenings were spent honing his skills on equipment, and his diligence quickly earned him a promotion to his “dream job” – an equipment operator. Rod recognized early on that hard work opened doors, and the company offered ample opportunities for those willing to prove themselves.

“I showed up and was green as grass, but was eager to learn,” he said. “I saw some equipment there and right then I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Promotions followed as Rod demonstrated loyalty and took on challenging projects. In 1983, he stepped into his first managerial role as a Foreman in Odessa, Texas, learning invaluable lessons about teamwork and working with project owners. The company’s growth paralleled Rod’s ascent, and in 2000, he was entrusted with his first project as a Superintendent. Managing the SAWS Dos Rios to Salado Project showcased the leadership’s genuine concern for employee growth.

In 2008, a pivotal moment arrived when Rod managed a significant pipeline project in California. Subsequent involvement in a major tunnel project in Northern California demonstrated the company’s diversity, with Rod relishing the experience. Over the years, he’s been part of over 40 projects, taking him from coast to coast and currently finding himself engaged in a project in New Orleans. Rod Fisher’s story is one of dedication, growth, and a testament to the opportunities that unfold when hard work meets passion.

Reuse Pipeline and Diffuser to Lake Lanier in Gwinnett County, GA – Featured Archive
Reuse Pipeline and Diffuser to Lake Lanier in Gwinnett County, GA – Featured Archive 150 150 Southland Holdings

Reuse Pipeline and Diffuser to Lake Lanier

The Lake Lanier Reuse Pipeline and Diffuser Project was completed by Oscar Renda Contracting in 2010. The $25-million project aimed to enhance Lake Lanier’s environmental sustainability. The Army Corps of Engineers imposed stringent permit restrictions, particularly regarding the pipeline’s elevation, to mitigate disruptions caused by the reservoir’s water level fluctuations. ORC installed a 54″ force main that lead to a Pressure sustaining/reducing vault that ultimately discharged reuse water over a mile into the lake.

Constructed in the floodplain area, the vault posed unique challenges, demanding the deployment of cofferdams and advanced dewatering techniques. The valve vault excavation reached a remarkable 53′ below the ground surface, utilizing innovative engineering methods such as sheet piling, soil nails, and shotcrete to ensure structural integrity.

Beyond the vault, a 72″ pipeline extended into the lake, requiring a strategic combination of a barge, cofferdam, and trestle system to navigate the land/water interface. Negotiating a complex 5,600′ underwater path, ORC utilized sectional barges with cranes, divers, and excavators. With the lake reaching up to 110′ in depth, the project needed precisese dredging that was guided by divers.

The installation of the 72″ steel pipe showcased meticulous engineering. Large spreaders connected to cranes were used for secure bedding, and a vacuum system, guided by divers, played a crucial role in pulling the pipe into place. The Lake Lanier Diffuser project marks a historic project in ORC’s history, and has contributed significantly to Lake Lanier’s environmental sustainability, leaving a lasting positive impact on the community and ecosystem.

North MacGregor Relief Tunnel in Houston, TX – Featured Archive
North MacGregor Relief Tunnel in Houston, TX – Featured Archive 150 150 Southland Holdings


The North MacGregor Relief Tunnel in Houston, Texas is a significant infrastructure project worth $13 million. It spans approximately 3,340 feet and has a cutting diameter of 189 inches. The tunnel features precision-made segmented liners with an outer diameter of 179 inches and an inner diameter of 161-1/4 inches, manufactured with zero tolerance for precision. Completed in 2008, this tunnel was constructed in the midst of the second largest medical district in the United States. It runs beneath North MacGregor Drive, the main thoroughfare leading to the major hospitals in the area. The project involved navigating through three reverse curves and included the construction of a storm tunnel shaft near Brays Bayou. Additionally, it encompassed the building of a single-pass tunnel, an outfall, and multiple storm water connections.

This particular project held great significance for Southland as it marked a pivotal moment in the company’s history. Southland Contractors, in a joint venture with Oscar Renda Contracting, eventually led to Oscar Renda fully acquiring Southland. The successful collaboration and teamwork on the North MacGregor Relief Tunnel project contributed to the establishment of the Southland we know today.

“Southland Contractors became part of Oscar Renda on that project, we all worked as a team together and we really had a great group of guys” – Burson Warren, Project Manager

Houston, being situated near the Gulf of Mexico, often experiences flood risks due to sudden flash storms in the area. Since its completion, the North MacGregor Relief Tunnel has played a vital role in safeguarding the city’s crucial areas from flood damage. The installation of two storm boxes measuring 8 feet by 8 feet, along with improvements to the existing transmission line, has contributed significantly to maintaining the safety of this area.