Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Weather, Geo Technical issues the narrative for Woodworth Dam Delays

Monday's Capital Spending Presentation opportunity delivered perhaps the most complete update yet on just how the much anticipated Woodworth Water Dam project has fallen so far behind schedule. 

With Richard Pucci, the City's Director of Operations providing the thumbnail sketch of weather woes and other issues that led to the oft changing completion date, now set for the Spring of 2022.

The path towards the much needed replacement dam was launched back in the days of Mayor Jack Mussallem and has made for much of the focus of major projects for the Current Mayor and Council since that time, with the first RFP for a study for replacement issued in July of 2016.

The Big Projects of the Hays 2.0 presentation of 2018

During the Hays 2.0 presentation of the Spring of 2018  Mayor Lee Brain highlighted the water supply issues as key, noting of the design plan to include hydro generation for the Water Dam an element that rarely gets a mention these days as part of the review of the project.

Those early days of enthusiastic release of wide ranging public presentations and videos slowly faded to only occasional mentions over the last six years, however.  

The delays of the previous two years at times attributed to COVID issues, the most recent update on the status of the project coming in October, putting the focus on weather as the main contributing factor to the delay, though as Mr. Pucci would note in his presentation, that was not the only factor that contributed to the city's woes on the work.

The Monday review of the Dam project began with the introduction of the topic by the City's Chief Financial Officer, Corinne Bomben, who noted of the plans to use both reserves and dividends towards funding for the five million dollar project.

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That was followed by a question from Councillor Blair Mirau who asked for some clarification on now the funding process worked as well as some further background on the delays.

"Knowing  what we now now, with all the kind of hardships we've faced on this project, weather delays,  and construction issues and things like that. I'm wondering if we can get a bit more context ... on some of those, I don't know if I want to call them high ticket items,  but some of the larger cost overruns just to give a bit of context as to where we're at with that"  

The City of Prince Rupert's Director of Operations, Richard Pucci
Speaking to Council on Monday afternoon

"The major over runs are really, delays ... so when a storm hits, we have several moths worth of storm management and storm work. So we would have a large storm it would wash out a certain area, we would have to go and rebuild that certain area  and then also kind of pick back up. So, we lost several months due to these storms and repairs associated with the storms, not only on the project but on other areas around the site.

The other major factor was some geo-technical issues, so you know we did a very rigorous geo-technical program on the site. But even after that, we found once you drill down there was fissions in the rock and also soft rock area, so we had to over excavate and take out more rock than we thought. And when you take that out you have to replace with also dowels and  with concrete. So that obviously was extremely expensive, bringing concrete and other items to this site is very, very expensive. Every little bit of gravel, sand everything was brought over by barge. 

So you know, COVID saw a little bit of delay on it, but not as much as say the storms, the rebuild back after storms and also this the geo-technical conditions" -- Director of Operations Richard Pucci

While informative, one thing missing from the quite expansive overview was that there wasn't a detailed review of the cost over runs that Councillor Mirau made mention of, whether as to what they are or what impact that they have had on the budget for the project and how the city will pay for them. 

Another missing element from the review was the missed deadlines of the past and why updates weren't provided during that period of time.

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In addition to the Dam update, the Water Treatment Facility and Submarine Design process that will mark the next phase of the City's Water program (estimated at 4 million dollars) also gained some attention, once again with Councillor Mirau making inquiries towards it.

"I'm just wondering, what would help me conceptualize why this particular item is relatively high, without actually building anything. Can you give a little more context on the kind of scope of work and how much of that cost is related to federal requirements, versus how much is actual detailed design work.

The Director of Operations provided the thumbnail sketch for Council as to the thinking behind the four million dollar tab for the design process.

"I think that four million is a bit generous for just the engineering and design, but it definitely will be in the millions. We put a four million dollar number there, because if we're able to get into any sort of ground prep, or anything else, then we would like to have that money available and not have to come back to Council for a variance, or an amendment.

But these are three essentially, separate, multi million dollar projects. 

You know we have the upgrades that have to happen on the mainland side which is where our water system is. Upgrades on our side which is the island side, we have a submarine line that has to be fully designed and then we look at design for a very sophisticated water treatment plant for our certain, very specific water.

We also have to do what is called value engineering, that is a must with the province and at that table well have provincial delegates,  and we'll have Northern Health delegates and we'll have city representatives on that panel. So that is another expense as well.

You know, we're looking at a you know 28-29 million dollar build, so you know, fifteen to twenty percent in design and engineering is not uncommon in that number"

Mr. Pucci's presentation on the Dam, as well as some of the other large scale infrastructure  coming following it can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive starting at the 27 minute mark.

At the end of the Regular Council Session, Councillor Barry Cunningham led the salutes of the council membership towards city Staff for their work on the presentation process.

"I'd like to thank the staff that came today, as well as the staff that prepared this report, it was quite in depth and I think they should be recognized for what they've accomplished"

"It was very well explained, I think it was well done. Each department got to say what they wanted to and what we need, and it's not very often that we have the expertise of our staff in a meeting to explain different things, especially in front of council or in a forum in front of the residents" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham

And they were quite right to do so, for the session was very informative and a welcome addition to the City Council process of information sharing. 

It makes for something that they should incorporate into their regular public sessions of 2022, providing for frequent and comprehensive reviews of the ongoing major projects that have been taken on.

Should they follow up on the success of the Monday Presentation session, hopefully more of the Council members come prepared with questions and follow up on some of the information they hear during the sessions,  in order to provide as wide an overview of the major projects that the city takes on.

The Mayor has provided for an update on the City's notes on the project for his Facebook followers on his Social Media page.

Some of the past history of the Dam project from first bid towards the hoped for completion of Spring 2022 can be followed through our archive of Major Projects and Infrastructure here.

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