When the Naval Support Facility in Dahlgren, Virginia, made plans to expand, Dominion Electric geared up to build a new transmission line and substation. Before the utility could start construction, however, it had to clear the right-of-way corridor: 8 miles of hilly and heavily forested right-of-way stretching from Route 3 to the Dahlgren Naval Base in rural King George County, Virginia.

To start construction as soon as possible, Dominion Electric turned to E.J. Wade Construction, which then turned to its new Fecon FTX600 mulching machine. Dominion gave E.J. Wade Construction five months to clear the corridor, which averages 120 ft wide.

Because the hilly countryside ranged from 1:1 to 2:1 slopes, the steep terrain offered challenges to clearing crews, including efficiency, visibility and safety. By using the heavy-duty FTX600, which features a 600-hp engine, the crew could navigate the steep slopes. As a result, the team completed the job three weeks early, clearing land at a rate of 1,500 ft per week.

Working in a Marshy Terrain

The Dahlgren project was the first time the crew used the FTX600, but the company has other Fecon products in its fleet, including CAT excavators that fit with the CEM36 mulching head, a Peterson chipper, horizontal chippers and Caterpillar D7 dozers.

ROW clearing

E.J. Wade looked at several heavy-duty mulchers, but the company chose the FTX600 over similar mulchers because of its specialized design and powerful engine. The low ground pressure of the track-mounted configuration prevents the equipment from getting stuck in marshy terrain and the soft Virginia soil. In turn, the crew could work through a variety of adverse weather conditions, which occurred during the project. Less ground pressure also meant less erosion, because the equipment leaves less of a footprint on the newly mulched
terrain.

The tread on the track-mounted configuration helped to keep the work moving forward. In contrast, a wheeled machine would have been stuck constantly, requiring extra operators and valuable time to dig it out. With the production rates and the rugged terrain, a wheeled machine would not have been able to keep up with the field workforce, regardless of its horsepower.

Clearing the Land

The 600-hp engine was another important factor in completing the Dahlgren project ahead of schedule. Because of the nature of right-of-way clearing, the majority of the crew’s work is deadline driven. The workers clear the land as a first step of the process, and the construction crews are close behind. By using the mulcher, they were able to get their work done more quickly, thus allowing the other crews to access the work site in a timelier manner.

The FTX600 spearheaded the land-clearing process with its extra engine power. As such, the crew could mulch a large tree without having to cut it down and place it into the chipper. The right-of-way crew could mulch trees ranging from 18 inches to 24 inches, which previously would have had to be cut down with logging crews. The steep terrain made getting logging equipment on and off the job site difficult, and being able to mulch the younger growth saved the clearing crews several days’ worth of time.

After the smaller brush and trees were mulched, logging crews removed and mulched the older growth, which ranged from 36 inches to 42 inches. They then used the FTX600 again to smooth out the final product.

Enhancing Field Safety

In addition to increasing the rate of production, E.J. Wade was able to enhance the safety of the crews. Right-of-way clearing crews are often spread out across the job site to keep work moving forward. Mulching crews lead the way, followed by logging crews and even more mulching crews. With the FTX600 mulching more of the growth, however, the work zone was shorter and the logging crews could follow more closely. This meant that the company didn’t need to have extra spotters keep an eye on the machines in the hills and valleys of the work site.

The configuration of the FTX600 itself also has several safety features that were put to the test on the steep terrain of the Dahlgren project. Similar equipment would have had trouble staying balanced on the slopes, but the design of the FTX600 spread out the weight evenly in any position, preventing catastrophic accidents that could have endangered crews.

In addition, the structure of the enclosed cab kept operators safe from falling debris, and the panoramic visibility prevented accidents with other machines working in close proximity. All of these factors kept the work site up and running and more importantly, kept operating crews
safe.


William Green (william.green@ejwadeconstruction.net) is the director of project management for
E.J. Wade Construction in Richmond, Virginia. He has been with the company for two-and-a-half years and has spent his career doing site work and project management.

Elton Wade (elton.wade@ejwadeconstruction.net) is the vice president of operations for E.J. Wade Construction and oversees all clearing projects for the company. He has been with the company for 10 years and is an ISA Certified Arborist.

Companies mentioned:

Caterpillar | www.cat.com

Dominion Electric | www.dom.com

E.J. Wade Construction | www.ejwadeconstruction.net

Fecon | www.fecon.com

Peterson | www.petersoncorp.com