Updates provided in East Branch Dam project

WILCOX – Recently several representatives from the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, Pittsburgh District met with area residents and other agency officials as part of the East Branch Dam Safety Project Stakeholders meeting.The main goal of the meeting was to provide an update to local partners and agencies on the progress that has been made since the last meeting held in September. The Dam Safety Modification Study was approved in October 2010 and recommends constructing a full-length, full-depth concrete cutoff wall through the dam to reduce risk and restore the dam to normal operation. The estimated cost of this plan is $280 million. East Branch is a multiple purpose project with its two primary purposes being flood control and low water regulation for water quality.New East Branch Lake Park Manager Mike Setlock stated several projects, both short-term and long-term, are taking place at the lake. Since 2008, the dam has been under 24-hour-a-day monitoring. Staff monitors the area with three eight-hour shifts. Currently the lake is 20 feet below its expected summer pool depth."We have been very busy since last fall and have been actively engaged in the dam safety project, been receiving full capability funding needed to keep things going and in a positive direction," said Mike Rattay, project manager. "2011 was a real big year for the project. Not only did we initiate the design phase but we got the approval from the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works to initiate the construction phase."Last year, officials completed the design for access road improvements, awarded contracts including one for construction, one for the geotechnical investigation design for the cutoff wall and one for an independent external peer review for the design phase, where experts in the industry review the design from a safety perspective.A request for a proposal for a new office building was also advertised. The building will be located between the maintenance shed and the new equipment storage building. It will be a pre-engineered structure placed on a permanent foundation which will initially be used to house onsite construction personnel throughout the duration of the project. This contract will be awarded this summer.Another contract was for new instrumentation consisting of nine monitors critical for monitoring the water pressure within the dam during construction as well as for the automation of those instruments in which any personnel from within the Army Corps will have access to the information. They will begin working in spring through the summer and have the instruments automated by the fall in order to gather at least one year's worth of data before they begin excavating for the cutoff wall.Rattay said the corps is on schedule to award the contract for the cutoff wall next summer and to finish the project in 2017, funding dependent. In the president's 2013 budget, $15 million has been set aside for the project, which will be enough to award the cutoff wall contract. Currently the corps is developing their 2014 budget. Last year they visited two other corps projects sites including Clearwater and Wolf Creek dams, to view their progress."This spring we put out a special notice open to the contracting industry to see if they would be interested in presenting to our team what their capabilities would be to construct the cutoff wall," Rattay said. "From that we learned the capabilities are out there to build this project through various means and methods. We are going to determine what is the best value not only in terms of to the government but to the taxpayer."Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, April 24, 2012 of The Ridgway Record for more.