Dam contract dispute

By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun

Kiewit Infrastructure West Coast Corp. has filed a bid protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) as a challenge to the terms of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s contract award on the Isabella Dam project.

According to the GAO website, Kiewit filed two separate bid protests against the Army Corps of Engineers, with one being filed on Oct. 2 and a second protest on Nov. 13 of this year. No specific information is available on the GAO website regarding the protests other than both cases are currently open. The date of expected decision is Jan. 10, 2018, for the first case filed on Oct. 2 and a due date of Feb. 21, 2018, for the other case that was filed on Nov. 13.

The Corps announced in September that it had awarded the $241 million contract to Flatiron/Dragados/Sukut Joint Venture, a group of three contractors from the Bay area.

While it was anticipated that preliminary work would be underway by now on the multi-million dollar project, the bid protests could possibly set the project back by several months.

According to the GAO website, a bid protest is essentially a challenge to the terms of the award of a government contract.

Representatives from Kiewit would not comment on the bid protest. When contacted, Tom Janssen, company spokesman said only that they “do not publically comment on pending legal issues.”

The Corps is equally reserved with their comment regarding the bid protest. Corps’ spokesman Tyler Stalker’s said that “we are excited to be ready to move forward with construction in 2018 on the main and auxiliary dams at Isabella Lake, modernizing the 65-year-old facility to help reduce the flood risk for more than 300,000 people downstream.”

It was back in September when the Corps announced that it has awarded a $204 million contract to Flatiron/Dragados/Sukut Joint Venture, to construct the modifications to Isabella dam that would address the safety issues that had been identified in 2005. Awarding of the contract marked the beginning of actual construction of the modifications to the dam that would remediate the issues of overtopping, seismic and seepage concerns at Isabella dam.

The project construction at the main dam will include a 16-foot raise of the dam, excavation of a new emergency spillway, modifications to the existing service spillway, temporary modifications to Highway 155 at the main dam’s right abutment and modifications to several recreational facilities north of the auxiliary dam.

At the time the contract was awarded, it contained an option to work on the auxiliary dam. Should the Corps decide to exercise the option, it would increase the total contract amount to $241.75 million. Work on the auxiliary dam would encompass abandonment of the Borel Canal outlet works and modifications to the auxiliary dam including a 16-foot raise similar to the main dam.

Stalker explained that the dam construction is one contract; however the option clause for auxiliary dam was necessary due to the fact that the Corps is awaiting a decision from Southern California Edison on the Borel Canal easement that runs under the auxiliary dam. According to the Corps, the acquisition and abandonment of the 1,300-foot long easement is necessary to remediate deficiencies associated with the Borel Canal conduit.

The Corps estimates that the dam construction will take approximately five years to complete, with an estimated completion in the year 2022. That completion date could be pushed back depending on the outcome of the bid protests filed by Kiewit.