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THIRD STRAW | P1 | Vanishing water beneath Lake Mead

Reported by: Dana Wagner
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Updated: 2/21 8:59 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV -- One of the most difficult construction projects on planet Earth is under way a few miles northwest of Hoover Dam, but most of it cannot be seen: a tunnel to one of the deepest parts of Lake Mead.

The tunnel is being carved through the rock by the southern Nevada Water Authority to make sure water continues to flow as the level of the lake continues to fall.

Visitors start by taking a 640-foot elevator ride straight down.

The bottom of the shaft opens into a giant chamber filled with workers.

There's also a train that takes people 1.5 miles to a cutter head. Eventually, this will be a three-mile tunnel. Anyone who takes the journey underground may feel some butterflies.

After all, plenty can go wrong way down there. Emergency breathing apparatus attached to all visitors' belts serve as a constant reminder of that. It’s dark and cramped for 3 1/2-minute descent.

More than a hundred people are working on the tunnel in three shifts around the clock.

It’s also dangerous. A year and a half ago, Tommy Turner lost his life in an accident below Lake Mead.

Stickers on the sides of workers' helmets are a reminder of Turner and the perils of the job.

This is one of the most difficult ongoing construction projects in the world right now.

“I admire those men that go down into that tunnel every day. It is risky work. It is hard work. It is dangerous work. And this community owes them a huge debt of gratitude,” said former chief of the Southern Nevada Water Authority Pat Mulroy.

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