February DLWID Board Report

There were several important items on the Board’s agenda including the replacement of the water impoundment device (the dam). This item was brought forward by Director Randy Weldon in the November 2014 meeting. The proposal was to first remove the current dam and then try some other structure such as sandbags or water-filled flood control tubes.  The second large topic for the night was the consideration of the RFP for the aeration project.

Lake Level

Do we have an image problem.  This was Kylo's drink special tonight. The Devils Lake!

Do we have an image problem. This was Kylo’s drink special tonight. The Devils Lake!

The Blue Heron Marina brought a show and tell session with the District Board. They displayed the dozen plus propellers that were damaged by low water conditions that now exist in the summer under the new lake levels approved by the Board.  He requested that the if the District is going to continue to keep the current policy perhaps they could work toward marking low water areas and other submarine dangers to prevent damage to boats and potential injury.

Dam Removal

DLNA commented on the proposed removal of the impoundment structure.  We stated that the proposed removal of the Dam seems to be justified by concerns over the sandbar which exists at the mouth of the river. We feel that the discussions related to this project have had little to do with the actual sandbar and have been primarily focused on the dam.

Perhaps the project should be renamed the “sandbar abatement project”?  From that perspective the District might come up with a different set of potential solutions to the problem rather than the single threaded view currently on the table.

We don’t disagree with a review or thought process related to the sandbar. We do question the timing and urgency of the proposed solution (dam removal).  Why does the District feel this must be done prior to this year’s impoundment?

We know from testimony last month that the sandbar has been a constant fixture in the river since the 30’s and beyond. The City has removed sand from the area in the years prior to the District’s existence; they have split the responsibility in later years.  At one time a large beach was created in the small park located at that location from the tailings of the dredging process.

We recommend that first and foremost the District should address the water right and the need to impound to 9.53’ for at least one day this year by installing the impoundment structure early enough in the season to be successful. This is the final year in the five year cycle.  This must be done in order to preserve our water right.  Let’s check off that requirement first.

After completing this important step, a study could be run and/or trials on particular solutions to reducing the sandbar.  We also felt that they should not forget the potential of dredging which has been discussed by the board but never seriously considered as an option for fear that the permitting process may be too complex.

The Lake Manager stated that he was working with  George Drake who is the from PBS Engineering + Environmental and is asking for a bid to study the project.  The information would be presented in the April Board meeting during a public hearing on the subject.  The Board did not discuss the project, not one word.

Aeration Project

The second topic that we discussed tonight is related to the aeration project RFP which did not receive a single bids by the January deadline.  We felt that a possibly reason for this was more related to issues with the RFP than the project.  Interesting this RFP was not for an actual project but only a call for qualifications, were not that sure why that was the approach, but its how the district approached it.

There were three responses from interested firms as to why the RFP was not bid.  You can review those at this link.  The following is an excerpt that is representative of the comments provided.

There were three constraints that gave us problems:

“Certification of Proposer’s willingness to acquire a performance bond as part of any potential contract that might arise from this solicitation providing for the successful project completion as designed meeting the described outcomes within the Scope of Work particularly relative to achieving the Chlorophyll a standard of 15 ug/L, a pH of 6.5 to 8.5, and the elimination of water contact advisories associated with Harmful Algal Blooms.” P. 14 of the RFP.  

We do not believe that it is possible to design a system that can live up to these guarantees without extremely high construction costs and contingencies to insure against a costly penalty. Bonding companies are unwilling to provide indemnity for work that could be significantly impacted by weather (number of sunny days, storm water flows, plant die off due to herbicide applications by others) and other factors well beyond the contractor’s control. If a claim on a bond were made, the contractor would put their bonding relationship and personal finances in jeopardy for a bet against bad weather. If a claim on a bond was made, the surety would have incredible difficulty stepping into the defaulted contractors position to accept these guarantees.

“The  General  Report  to  accompany  the  Engineering  Plan  shall  identify  all necessary Improvements including but not limited to, permits and easements and the associated costs of, and timeline for acquiring such.” P.2

We believed that this requirement would likely require relocating a full time staff member for an extended period of time (months) to identify and research all permits, easements, and to gain familiarity with the various agencies involved.  Had the District provided some direction as to which properties were potentially available, and whom to contact, this may have not been such a large roadblock.

“Works and Improvements related to this Engineering Plan and General Report, the Consultant will be prohibited from bidding on such.” P.23

Our company views engineering, construction, and maintenance roles for water bodies as a continuum. In contrast to a commercial building that can generally be handed off between architect, contractor, and janitor – a lake is a living ecosystem that sometimes does not respond favorably to handoffs.  While the design was an enticing opportunity, we would not want to preclude ourselves from the construction activity, the phase which represents the largest part of our company’s revenues.  

The staff proposed four options related to this project; split out j the engineering from the construction and bid separately, redraft the RFP’s with less stringent requirements and resubmit for bid, directly assign the engineering portion without RFP, or abandon the project in favor to longer term measures.

We advocated to redraft the RFP and create a second round of bidding.  The Board discussed options including a two phased approach or a trial on a smaller scale that the entire lake.  Then the Lake Manager began to speak and continued for 45 minutes.  In the end the Board decided to proceed with the redrafting of the RFP for review in the next meeting.

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