Elwha dam removal project cost rising to $308 million

By Brian Gawley, Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES The three-year Elwha River dams removal project will begin in 2012 and cost an estimated $308 million, plus or minus 15 percent, the National Park Service said.

The estimated cost of removing the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams from the Elwha River has increased from the $135 million price tag cited in its last comprehensive budget estimate in 2001.

Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said Tuesday that when the 2001 project estimate of $135 million was revised upward to $185 million in 2004, that included only inflation estimates.

The latest estimate, completed in 2007 as part of a comprehensive project review, and announced Monday, is the first "complete, detailed estimate" of project costs since 2001, she said.

The park service previously had backed away from setting a target date for the start of dam removal to focus on building two water treatment plants for Port Angeles.

"We've passed the mid-point on this project, both in time and financing, and we're looking forward to dam removal," said Sue McGill, park acting superintendent, in the statement.

Water treatment plants
The project's two water treatment plants have passed two milestones, with major construction under way on one and permission from the national park service to the contractor begin construction on the other expected to be issued later this month.

The park service has planned to take down the two Elwha River dams since the 1992 Elwha River Restoration Act authorized their removal to restore salmon habitat.

The federal law also required construction of two treatment plants, one for municipal use and the other for industrial use.

They are designed to protect the water supplies of the city of Port Angeles, the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe and its fish hatchery as well as the state fish rearing channel.

The two projects combined $94.1 million are one of the largest contract awards in the history of the National Park Service, said Jon Jarvis, Pacific West Regional Director for the National Park Service.

In September, the park service awarded the $24.5 million contract for the first treatment plant to a joint venture of Watts Constructors LLC and John Korsmo Co. (Watts/Korsmo A JV).

Construction of the 10.6-million-gallon treatment plant also will include excavation of 21,500 cubic yards of earth and modifications to the city's Ranney Collector well on the Elwha River.

The excavation has begun at the city's landfill site, marking the first major work on the project.

The holes are being dug for the plant's two "clear well" tanks, which will hold clean water during the final stages of chlorination.

In December, the park service awarded the $69.6 million contract for the second water treatment plant to a joint venture of DelHur Industries of Port Angeles and Watts Constructors LLC.

The industrial water treatment plant project includes a new water intake, the plant that will process 51.2 million gallons a day, improvements to the Crown Z Road and levee improvements to protect current and future buildings from flooding.

It is being built upstream from an existing water intake that serves the state Department of Fish and Wildlife fish rearing channel and Nippon Paper Industries' mill.

The contract awards for the two water treatment plants have been within expected cost ranges, said Monday's statement from the park service.

Designs are being completed for additional mitigation projects also scheduled to be built over the next four years.

They include an improved tribal fish hatchery, a greenhouse for growing native plants to be used in restoring vegetation and mitigation for well owners and individual and tribal septic system owners along the river.

The 108-foot Elwha Dam at 541 Lower Dam Road, about eight miles southwest of Port Angeles, was built in 1913, creating Lake Aldwell.

Glines Canyon Dam, 210 feet high and eight miles up river from Elwha Dam, was built between 1925 and 1927 and created Lake Mills.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-417-3532 or brian.gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 05. 2008 9:00PM
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