The Partisan: FORA can only point at itself Water project flop

| OPINION

By Royal Calkins

It wasn’t a major project. Just a fairly routine $6 million job creating an “infiltration” system to direct rainwater into the underground water supply along Eucalyptus Road on Fort Ord.  But a recent engineering study determined that almost everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, so wrong that there’s no way of telling who’s to blame.

According to the report by Parikh Geotechnical Engineers, fault could not be accurately apportioned because:

  • The manufacturer of the infiltration system didn’t account for the degree of slope.
  • The design engineer didn’t accurately account for how the soil would react when saturated with rain.
  • The construction engineer elected to install the infiltrators in roadway fill rather than native soil.
  • The Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) and city of Seaside endorsed the location of the infiltrators.
  • FORA waited two years to complete paving and related work after the infiltrators were installed.
  • The contractor may never had compacted the soil as required.
  • Animals burrowed into the infiltrators, creating tunnels and burrows.
  • Neither FORA nor the city maintained the system.
  • After the system started failing, FORA covered the troubled portion with road base, making it hard to inspect.
  • The contractor’s warranty was for only one year but the contractor, Top Grade of Livermore, was bought up by another company a year or two after the infiltration work was completed in 2011.
  • The design engineer from Geotech and the FORA project manager passed away before the worst of the problems had surfaced.

In the end, water stopped percolating into the underground aquifer, parts of the infiltrator mechanisms broke and the burrowing of rodents caused erosion problems. And with no one to blame, that left FORA, overseer of most things at Fort Ord, responsible for repairs estimated to cost about $1 million. FORA directors are scheduled to vote today to put that project out to bid.

Peter Said, senior project manager for FORA, said this week that better planning could have prevented the troubles but he’s glad the fixes are to be made. Everything should be in great shape when the roadway gets turned over to Seaside as FORA sunsets out of existence in June, he said.

Past FORA board members said that similar problems have developed along General Jim Moore Boulevard but said they have been minor and fixable.

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In other government news, Monterey Peninsula school district trustees this week approved contracts for an environmental study of the Monterey High School athletic field project as well as a traffic and parking study.

The project includes expansion of the football stadium and installation of permanent lighting. It was put on hold in September after Voices questioned the district about an apparent conflict. An environmental review by the Monterey planning firm EMC determined that a full-blown environmental impact report would not be required even though numerous area residents had expressed grave concerns about the lighting. The issue raised by Voices was that EMC’s founder and president, Michael Grove, is also the part-time baseball coach at the school, raising potential questions about his impartiality.

The superintendent of schools, P.K. Diffenbaugh, elected to avoid possible litigation over the integrity of the environmental assessment and go ahead with a full environmental study. The EIR contract was awarded to Ascent Environmental at a cost not to exceed $249,998.

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Royal Calkins

About Royal Calkins

Contributing writer Royal Calkins has worked for newspapers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Fresno. For the past couple of years, he has produced a local news and commentary blog, the Monterey Bay Partisan. He can be reached at calkinsroyal@gmail.com.

One thought on “The Partisan: FORA can only point at itself Water project flop

  1. Thank you Mr. Calkins for reporting on this topic.
    The figure of $249,998 for the EIR Contract MPUSD approved is highly suspect especially as it appears to be linked to a federal requirement that school districts are required to solicit sealed bids for projects above $250,000. The District also separated out part of the overall project for paving and parking related to expanding the playing fields and approved funds for a separate EIR for over $30,000, again giving the appearance of deliberately avoiding the 250k cap. These limits are designed to discourage cronyism, conflicts of interest and graft, by hand selecting outside contractors for high price tag contracts. The practice of so conspicuously staying below the limit, while allowing for cost overruns, as this contract does, appears to be a highly questionable end run to enable the use of public funds in a way that contravenes public policy and federal law.

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