State accepting bids for flood reduction project

The Office of Financial Management yesterday invited contractors to bid on the $5.7 million-opportunity to further flood reduction in the Chehalis River Basin.

The Chehalis Work Group, a policy-making body that acts as a liaison to Olympia, will oversee the progress of the winning bidder. OFM sent its request for proposals to firms registered with the state.

According to the Request For Proposals, the contract will last from July 2013 to March 2015.

Funding for the project is not yet a guarantee.

Gov. Jay Inslee, former-Gov. Chris Gregoire, the House of Representatives and the Senate in their budgets included $28.2 million for flood reduction in the Chehalis River Basin, but the Legislature has not yet issued a final budget.

A definitive budget will not be issued until at least May 13, when lawmakers will reconvene for a two-week special session.

In November, the Governor’s Work Group requested funding for a multi-pronged flood mitigation plan, including $9.2 million for the study and design of a dam and other long-term projects to improve Interstate 5; $10.7 million for local flood protection projects; $4.4 million for projects that reduce flooding while benefitting fish; $1.75 million for reducing damage to residences and other structures in the floodplain; $1.2 million for operation of the basin program and for project management; and $950,000 for state agency technical assistance and project permitting.

Much of the work outlined in the OFM-issued request for proposals already was started by the Ruckelshaus Center.

The winning bidder will be expected to delve deeper into that work.

Specifically, the hired contractor will focus on the feasibility, structure and effects of a dam; protection for Interstate 5; small flood damage reduction projects; surveying the effects of structures in the floodplain; comparison of alternative solutions; an aquatic species enhancement plan; and engagement with technical, policy and community interests.

A significant challenge, according to the proposal, will be determining if a dam on the upper Chehalis River is indeed feasible.

By November 15, 2014, the hired contractor must make a recommendation, to the governor and the work group, about moving into the permitting phase of building the retention structure.

“In order to meet this timeline,” the Work Group said in its RFP, “the selected contractor must work on an aggressive schedule … (to develop) an innovative approach to flood damage reduction and aquatic species enhancements.”

The plan must “have a high probability for success,” the group said.

Local leaders also have begun the process of issuing requests for proposals.

At the flood authority’s April meeting — held via conference call — Facilitator Jim Kramer emphasized the importance of timeliness during the RFP process.

“We hope to gain a couple of months of lead time, so, if you have a project,” Kramer said to the jurisdiction leaders, many of whom are in charge of local flood reduction projects, “I don’t think it’s too soon to start putting together an RFP or holding pre-permitting discussions.”

“We need to try and get a head start on it — with the understanding that progress is contingent upon funding,” he said. “But given where this whole thing sits, I think there’s an extremely high likelihood this package passes. It’s prudent to start planning.”