Drainage Blanket Funded for Barton Dam

Catskill Remedial Contracting Services Inc. will install a “drainage blanket” for the earthen berm adjoining Barton Dam under a contract with the city worth $123,685. Ann Arbor city council action to approve the contract came at its Nov. 7, 2013 meeting.

A drainage blanket is a pervious but stable layer of material installed directly at the base of a structure to facilitate drainage. The installation is meant to repair a “boil” that has surfaced in the drainage ditch at the base of the right embankment at the dam. The boil has been identified as a potential cause of failure for the embankment by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – which is responsible for regulating the dam, because the dam generates electric power.

The contract was recommended to be awarded to Catskill, even though Pranam GlobalTech provided the lowest bid. The staff memo accompanying the council resolution cites “substandard performance” by Pranam GlobalTech on two other city projects, which led to the disqualification of their bid. The cost of the project will be split between the water fund (as the dam creates a pond from which the city draws the majority of its drinking water) and the general fund (for the hydroelectric operations).

The council had been alerted to the need for this project earlier this year, at a Feb. 11, 2013 work session on the FY 2014 budget. From The Chronicle’s report of that session:

In addition to the concrete and steel part of the dam, a roughly 3/8-mile long earthen embankment is part of the structure that forms Barton Pond, [public services area administrator Craig] Hupy explained. FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) has required the city to do some investigative work, and the city thinks there’ll be some follow-up work required when that investigative work is completed. [FERC is involved as a regulator because the Barton Dam generates electricity.]

Responding to a question from [Ward 3 councilmember Christopher] Taylor about the anticipated cost of the additional work, Hupy indicated that it would be “six figures.” The city is putting about $400,000 total in various parts of the budget for it. But until the study work is completed later this spring, the amount can’t be more precise, Hupy indicated. Because Barton is a federally controlled dam, whatever the work the city does will be what the regulator demands that the city does or doesn’t do. “Stay tuned,” Hupy told Taylor.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow.