Supervisors Award Storm Damage Contracts

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

September 7, 2023

A local contractor has won the job of repairing storm damage on a rural North Coast road, one of two sizable storm repair contracts that County Supervisors recently awarded.

At its Aug. 22 meeting, Supervisors were asked to award a $354,000 contract to David Crye General Engineering Contractor, Inc., of Morro Bay to make storm repairs to a segment of San Simeon Creek Road. The road meets Hwy 1 just at the entrance to the San Simeon State Park Campground just north of Cambria and heads back into and over the Coast Range Mountains. The jobsite is a couple of miles off Hwy 1, according to a vicinity map included with the County’s report.

The County added in some $30,200 in contingencies for an overall project cost of $354,000, according to a report on the award. The engineer’s estimate for the job was over $503,000. Crye Engineering was the lower of two bidders. The losing bid was for $625,000 from Semair Construction, Inc.

“The low bid,” reads the report, “came in 29.6% below the Engineer’s Estimate. The County of San Luis Obispo (County) staff has reviewed the submittal from David Crye General Engineering, and verified that they are the lowest responsive, responsible bidder.”

The road got damaged during the string of atmospheric river storms that started rolling through the area last December and continued well into the spring. “The County Emergency Operations Center (EOC),” reads the report written by Garret McElveny, the County’s Storm Recovery Team Engineer, “was activated on four separate occasions in early 2023 to support storm response activities.”

The storms led to the area being declared a disaster area for more than one storm event, and with a recent declaration by Supervisors that said the emergency was now over, work has begun on damage repairs under the Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA’s) so-called “Category C” road repairs. “Construction of Category C repair projects,”  McElveny said, “require bid advertisement and procurement in accordance with the County’s Purchasing Policy. Today’s action authorizes this Project to be completed and that the contract documents include provisions for the contractors to meet the FEMA reporting requirements, which will provide the County with the best opportunity for reimbursement of storm damage repair costs by FEMA.”

San Simeon Creek Road saw the collapse of some 175 feet of roadway, located at Mile Post 2.542, McElveny’s report said. “This Project will reconstruct the shoulder and creek embankment through the installation of rock slope protection and reconstruction of the road.”

The amount for the San Simeon Creek Road repairs is low enough that the County can pay for them through its existing roads budget, but doing it through FEMA means it will be reimbursed, for most of the costs.

“Public Works,” McElveny said, “anticipates reimbursement of project costs at a maximum of 75% from FEMA and 18.75% from Cal OES [Office of Emergency Services], for a total potential reimbursement of 93.75% of eligible expenditures. Reimbursement revenue will be realized as Public Works works through project obligation and disaster claims processing.”

The other contract Supervisors let involves repairing levees on a major South County Creek.

The Arroyo Grande Creek emergency Capacity restoration Project contract was awarded to Raminha Construction Inc., of Atascadero in the amount of $1.71 million. The County added $98,000 in contingencies and the total job budget comes to $1.81 million, according to a report from Angela Ford, the County’s Water Resources Engineer.

A few budget adjustments had to be made to the project, including appropriating some $1.23 million in “unanticipated revenue” that came to SLO County via the State Budget and the Department of Water Resources. And approve a $1.81 million “cash flow loan” from an emergency repair account for the flood district where the levee break happened.

The County didn’t get much interest in the job as Raminha was the only bid the County got. The company’s base bid was $1.66 million and the County asked for two additional bids on added scopes of work, which added $92,600 and $69,800 respectively. A third addition, which Raminha bid at $69,800 was not included by the County.

The two included additions were in the area downstream of the Union Pacific Railroad and near the intersection of Los Berros Road and Century Lane respectively. The third addition was located within the railroad’s right-of-way and the report said the County was still negotiating access with the railroad. Once that is secured, the additional work will likely be added to the contract.

The creek channel that was damaged runs in an arc at the edge of the community of Oceano between Willow Street and Hwy 1 according to a County map. It’s an area that’s been prone to flooding for many years. 

Angela Ford ‘s report said, “based on the progress of the discussions with Union Pacific, District staff feels that authorization to work within the railroad right-of-way is likely; therefore, today’s action would award a contract for the Base Bid and all three Additive Bid Items. If authorization is not received, Additive Bid Item #3 of the contract would not be authorized.”

The levee broke because it kept on raining last January. “On Jan. 9, 2023,” the report said, “during severe winter storms that hit California and San Luis Obispo County, and requiring an advance emergency evacuation order, the AG Creek channel filled beyond capacity and the levee breached, causing extensive flooding, and stranding many local residents.”

Like other areas in the county, heavy rains in March mean a near rep[eat of January’s disaster.

“On March 9, 2023,” Ford’s report said, “the AG Creek channel again experienced high storm flows and another evacuation order was issued. The levee held, but additional damages occurred to the already weakened levee.”

The County got some of the levee repaired in between storms.

“While temporary measures and some permanent repairs were completed during and between storms, accumulated sediment and storm debris has reduced the capacity of the channel and the levee is structurally compromised due to piping and erosion damage.”

The County came up with a 2-phased project. Phase-1 involves removing 11,000 cubic yards of accumulated sediment and storm deposited debris “to increase the flow capacity of the channel, particularly downstream of the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge.” A cubic yard is the equivalent to a normal-sized garbage dumpster. 

Phase-2, the report said, “will consist of levee repairs from damages caused by overtopping and seepage, including installation of turf reinforcement mat on the landside slopes of the south levee to restore as-built conditions and installation of hydraulic barriers in various portions of the compromised levee to protect against seepage and prevent further erosion. We will return to the Board to award the Phase 2 contract after bids are received.”

So Raminha’s contract is apparently just the Phase-1 work. These repairs are under FEMA’s Category A and D, the report said, which means the costs are reimbursable. But they’re looking someplace else for the money this time.

“Staff submitted a ‘Letter of Interest’ to the Natural Resource Conservation Service [NRCS] requesting funding via the Emergency Watershed Protection program. Voluntary purchase and removal of a vulnerable home from the floodplain appears to be an eligible project if use of the property provides a flood protection benefit to other areas. 

“NRCS staff is currently completing a damage survey report as a first step in the program process. The goal would be to partner with a voluntary landowner to complete the project as soon as possible.”

Also, the County “submitted a Notice of Interest for the Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program [HMGP] for advance assistance grant funding to evaluate alternatives for flood easements and/or other off-creek flood protection measures. California Office of Emergency Services [Cal OES] staff determined that the project was eligible under the HMGP and District staff submitted a full application prior to the HMGP’s Aug. 4, 2023 deadline.”

But, the County said, this program is very impacted and competitive “due to the extent of storm impacts throughout California and specific program priorities, and a different grant funding program may need to be pursued in the future for this effort.”

Like San Simeon Creek Road, the County expects to be reimbursed 75% from FEMA and 18.75% from Cal-OES. And the DWR grant of $1.23 million that was included in the State Budget, “is anticipated to cover local share of expenditures not covered by FEMA and Cal OES.”

The County is in a hurry to get this project done and the creek levee system made whole again before this winter, which could be another wet year if the predicted El Niño weather pattern returns.

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