Dam removal contract comes in $13 million under estimate
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Looking up at the 1913 Elwha Dam from the canyon floor shows water trickling through on Thursday. -- Photo by Chris Tucker/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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Smashed dam concrete for roads

Clallam County Public Works is offering public gravel pits for depositing up to an estimated 150,000 cubic yards of the concrete from the demolished Elwha River dams.

The county would used the crushed concrete for roadbed, potentially saving taxpayers up to $1.5 million.

Two of the three gravel pits that could be used for disposal are west of Port Angeles. Using either of them would save Port Angeles residents the rumble of project-related dump trucks during the 2 years of the dams getting torn down, county Engineer Ross Tyler said Thursday.

The National Park Service awarded a $26.9 million contract for demolishing the concrete Elwha and Glines Canyon dams Thursday to Barnard Construction Co. Inc. of Bozeman, Mont.

Of three locations, the county's Herrick Road pit a mile west of the Glines Canyon Dam and Ranger Pit about 1.5 miles west of the Elwha Dam would be the likely potential deposit sites, Tyler said.

The dams are located about seven miles west of Port Angeles, the Elwha Dam off state Route 112 and the Glines Canyon Dam at the end of Olympic Hot Springs Road.

The third pit is on Mount Pleasant Road about nine miles east of the dams, but using that site would require trucks to go through Port Angeles, a major drawback and not a problem with the other two sites, Tyler said.

The arrangement would be a straight dump-for-concrete deal: The contractor would dump the material at no cost, and the county would get "some of the finest" roadbed material produced, Tyler said.

"We have to be careful we don't give public resources for private profit," he said.

"The taxpayer has to get something out of this, and so does the contractor."

Tyler said that combined, the dams combined have 75,000 cubic yards of solid concrete, but when broken up, the material would fill 150,000 cubic yards of space.

That amount of crushed concrete road-bed would cost the county up to $1.5 million, Tyler said.

Tyler added that a considerable amount of fill has to go back to the dam site once Lake Aldwell behind the Elwha Dam and Lake Mills behind the Glines Canyon Dam are drained.

"We may not get all of the concrete, but we would have to get some of it if the taxpayer gets a benefit out of it," Tyler said.

Any one of the county pits would hold all the estimated maximum 7,500 dump-truck-and-pup-trailer loads that will cart off the concrete, Tyler said.

The dump trucks carry 10 cubic yards each and the pup trailers the trucks pull carry eight to 10 cubic yards, Tyler said.

The contractor would remove steel reinforcing rods, which could be sold by the contractor for scrap, and crush the concrete into chunks of about 3 or 4 inches.

"It would be crushed and ready to use without us doing anything to it," Tyler said.

Park Service officials did not know if subcontractors or Barnard would haul debris, and a company spokesman did not return calls for comment late Thursday afternoon.

But Park Superintendent Karen Gustin said Barnard has the information Tyler gave the park about the proposal.

Tyler offered the pit sites for the project at a pre-solicitation meeting of potential bidders held April 22 at the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles, he said.

If there's interest in using the sites, Tyler said he expects to be contacted by the end of September.

Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES -- A Bozeman, Mont., construction company will begin tearing down the two dams on the Elwha River about 13 months from now, bringing in 40 to 50 jobs and costing the National Park Service some $13 million less than it had anticipated.

The removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams is the largest such project in the nation's history.

"This is a historic moment," said Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin as the National Park Service's Denver Service Center announced the award of the $26.9 million contract to Barnard Construction Co. Inc. on Thursday.

The contract is $13.1 million less than the low end of the Park Service's budget of $40 million to $60 million for the dam tear-downs.

But the price tag for the entire project is likely to remain at $351 million, Gustin said. The Park Service has up to $360 million to spend.

The dam-removal part of the entire project is expected to generate an estimated 40 to 50 jobs, she said.

Dams will begin to be dismantled Sept. 15, 2011, with initial preparation starting next week.

By March 2014, some 70 miles of the Elwha River and its tributaries -- once prime habitat for salmon -- will flow freely for the first time in 101 years.

The work will take three years to allow the controlled release of sediment behind the dams.

See animation on how the Elwha Dam will be removed: http://interactive-earth.com/resources/science-visualizations/8-elwha-dam-removal-process.html

(Animation of Glines Canyon Dam removal on Lake Mills story, accessed via home page)


Federal acquisition regulations prevented the disclosure of the number of bids considered and if the winning bid was the lowest offer, said Samantha Richardson, Denver Service Center spokeswoman.

The award was a "best-value contract," meaning it was decided on the basis of technical capabilities of the bidder and other factors, along with price, park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said.

Since the Glines Canyon Dam is inside Olympic National Park and the Elwha river starts within its boundaries, the National Park Service is in charge of the project even though the Elwha Dam is outside park boundaries.

"The award of this contract represents tangible progress toward the completion of what I believe will be one of the most exciting and biologically-significant initiatives ever launched by the federal government," said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, who has championed the removal of the 83- and 97-year-old Elwha River dams since 1992.

"The removal of the two dams and the restoration of this unique and largely-protected habitat will demonstrate how these historically-abundant fish runs can recover when we 'turn back the clock,'" said Dicks, who represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.

As a key member of the House Appropriations Committee, Dicks helped direct money to the Elwha project for years -- including special federal stimulus funding in 2009 that moved up the schedule by one year.

Gustin said that now park officials can begin to discuss issues of public access. She would like to provide opportunities for people to observe the tearing down of the dams as the work proceeds.

The process by which Barnard will remove 108-foot high Elwha Dam, completed in 1913, and the 210-foot high Glines Canyon Dam, completed in 1927, has yet to be determined, though both dams will be dismantled at roughly the same time, Gustin said.

"The finer details, like access [to the park], scheduling, the timing and details of specific work on Glines and Elwha are yet to be determined," she said.

The National Park Service has spent about $10,000 "to take this story to a larger audience," Gustin said.

A marketing campaign is under development by a Seattle company and a logo is being developed by Laurel Black of Laurel Black Design Inc. of Port Angeles that will replace the project's "Last Dam Summer" logo, Gustin said.

Park officials also are talking with a consortium of companies about developing a documentary film, and about plans to reach out to national media and major networks.

The Last Dam Summer campaign referred to changes in the changes in the lakes formed by two dams rather than than the date of dams' actual demolition, park officials say.

Lake Aldwell and Lake Mills will be drawn down for good beginning next summer, a few months before demolition of the dams begins.

Thursday's bid award also should mean a lot to fishing enthusiasts, Restoration Project Manager Brian Winter said Thursday.

"It means we can finally start looking forward to sustained runs of salmon reaching all the way into Olympic National Park."

A planned five-year moratorium on fishing the Elwha will start as the dams come down and will be lifted "depending on how quickly the stocks recover," Winter said.

"It could start out with catch-and-release and then go to catch-and-keep," he said.

Dam removal was authorized by Congress in 1992.

In 2004, when the city of Port Angeles, the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe and the National Park Service signed the agreement to tear down the dams, the cost was estimated at $182 million and removal was set to begin in early 2008.

The $79 million Elwha water facility, the largest project in the restoration effort, employed 110 people during construction and has been completed, as has the $27.6 million Port Angeles water treatment plant construction, which employed 45.

The Elwha fish hatchery, which is raising salmon for the river restoration effort, is halfway built and will be completed by next May. That job employs 50.

An outfall pipe at Nippon Paper Industries Port Angeles will extend 1,400 feet into the Strait to carry sediment removed from river water the company uses to make paper. That project will be completed by mid-October.

Barnard Construction is ranked among the top three dam construction companies in the country, has offices in Canada and Mexico, and recently completed the Saluda Backup Dam in South Carolina, for three years the largest ongoing dam construction project in the country.

Barnard Construction Vice President Neil Van Amburg did not a call requesting comment late Thursday afternoon.

Glines Canyon Dam will be turned over to the company for prepatory work next month and Elwha Dam in mid-July.


Reporter Tom Callis contributed to this report.

Senior Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 27. 2010 1:17AM
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