Wellington flood control dam construction to begin soon
Work is expected to begin before the end of September on a project that will reduce the threat of floods in east Wellington. The city council on Wednesday awarded a construction contract to Nelco Construction for $204,382.50 to build a 16-foot-high dam designed to impound storm water north of town.
The Debris Basin dam is about twice as expensive as engineers estimated six years ago because the state has declared that the dam and temporary reservoir are in a high risk area and construction has to follow more stringent rules. A dam breach that close to town would be more devastating than the flood it was intended to prevent.
Plans call for a 12-inch diameter pipe to convey water gradually from the basin to a 30-inch pipe beneath US-6, then empty into Flood Wash. However, Merrial Johansen of Johansen & Tuttle Engineering told the council Wednesday that the city is going to be about $220,000 short on funds. Pipe, labor, acquisition of rights-of-way and engineering will push total project cost over the $500,000 mark.
His firm will assist the city in putting together an application for a grant from the state's Permanent Community Impact Board, he said. The city already has a $325,000 loan from the CIB and has kicked in $25,000 of its own cash so far, as well as about $100,000 of in-kind labor.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ben Blackburn told the council he is going to lobby to get the outstanding loan changed to an outright grant. He is going to State Capitol again this week to attend a meeting of the Legislature's Interim Revenue and Taxation Committee to see if there is any progress on the suggestion to give the CIB the authority to turn loans into grants in emergencies.
That idea, which has the backing of Rep. Christine Watkins and Sen. David Hinkins, came about as a way of saving Wellington's budget from a crisis caused by a sales tax exemption for mining equipment passed three years ago. The city lost between a quarter and a third of its revenue as a result, and will have difficulty making payments on the CIB loan.