It had been a soggy spring in 2008 in the Wisconsin Dells, not ideal for tourism, when the unthinkable happened. Extremely heavy rains breached a county highway, and the water from nearby Lake Delton gushed into the Wisconsin River, taking several luxury homes along for a horrific ride.
Within a few short hours on June 9, Lake Delton was empty — no water for the Tommy Bartlett skiers, and definitely no water views or aquatic fun for vacationers at the lakeside resorts. It looked like it might be years before the lost lake could be restored.
Like everyone else, JIM BORG ’72 watched the catastrophe on the news. “I saw the houses floating through the breach, and the next morning I told some coworkers, ‘I’m glad I’m not responsible for restoring that.’” Within hours, Mead & Hunt was contacted about the disaster.
By the following week, Borg had designed three alternatives to present to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. “We had to divert Dell Creek away from the breach and back to the dam,” he explains. He became Mead & Hunt’s project manager for what he terms a “once-in-a-lifetime” project, in part because of the stepped-up timetable for the reconstruction. Attracting 1.5 million tourists annually, the area’s success is crucial to the state, prompting Gov. Jim Doyle to “fast-track” the project.
Incredibly, within six months, the highway was rebuilt and the capacity of Dell Creek Dam was increased. Rather than years later, water began refilling Lake Delton on December 5, 2008, in ample time for the 2009 tourist season. For their roles in working with a number of contractors and governmental agencies, Borg and another Mead & Hunt engineer, Rusty Chesmore, were named 2009 Engineers of the Year by Wisconsin Builder magazine.
“Some of the pressure to open up the road by December was because it was the primary emergency route around the lake,” Borg explains. Because the lake is only 45 minutes from Borg’s home, he spent a great deal of time monitoring the progress.
“I was amazed at how a project could get done in six months that would normally take three years,” Borg remarks. “It shows the importance of a really good working relationship with everybody involved. People worked selflessly. We knew how important it was to get it done.”
Providing power abroad
Jim Borg is no stranger to challenging assignments. As young Bradley graduates, he and his wife RUTH STEINWEDEL BORG ’74, a sociology major, embraced the idea of living and working abroad. “We looked at it as an adventure and a chance to see how the rest of the world lives.”
Most of Borg’s overseas jobs have been in climates with tropical temperatures year-round, in places like Quito, Ecuador, a city that almost straddles the equator in the Andes Mountains. Before moving to Wisconsin in 2005, the Borgs were missionaries there with HCJB World Radio. Borg was project manager for the Loreto Hydro project. The hydroelectric project powered the mission group’s mountaintop antenna farm and its hospital and clinic in Quito; the rest of the power was sold.
When the three Borg children were under the age of eight, the family lived in Pakistan for 14 months. Borg was the hydraulic design engineer for the Kalabagh Dam on the Indus River, funded by the United Nations. As new parents in the late ’70s, the couple spent 2 1/2 years in Venezuela while Borg was the hydraulic engineer on the Guri Hydroelectric Project. “It was the third largest project in the world at the time,” Borg says. To this day, the dam supplies almost 75 percent of Venezuela’s electricity.