This Oct. 18, 2017, photo shows crews placing rebar as the upper chute of the Lake Oroville flood control spillway is constructed. (Ken James/California Department of Water Resources photo)

Cost of Oroville Spillway Repairs Doubles

Heavy rains in February triggered erosion that caused an emergency evacuation of 188,000 downstream residents and necessitated extensive repairs.

Repair of the Oroville Dam's flood control spillway in northern California will cost as much as $500 million, according to state officials, which is almost twice as much as the California Department of Water Resources' original budget for the work -- about $275 million. After heavy rains caused the dam's emergency spillway to erode last February, the department awarded a contract on April 17, 2017, to Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. for repair work to start immediately so the system would be operational by Nov. 1, which is the traditional start of the state's winter rainy season; Kiewit's bid of $275,443,850 was the lowest responsive bid, according to DWR.

The erosion caused an emergency evacuation of 188,000 downstream residents and necessitated extensive repairs. The Oct. 18, 2017, photo featured in this story shows crews placing rebar as the upper chute of the Lake Oroville flood control spillway is constructed. (Ken James/California Department of Water Resources photo)

"Design changes and unexpected additional work" raised the cost of the repair project, The Sacramento Bee's Dale Kasler reported Oct. 19.

His report quoted Erin Mellon, a spokeswoman for the department, as saying the department hopes to recover up to 75 percent of the construction costs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and that water districts that store water behind the dam, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, and the Kern County Water Agency, will be expected to pay whatever the federal government does not cover.

"Mellon said state officials have known for several months that the cost would exceed the original budget. General contractor Kiewit Corp obtained the two-year, $275 million contract in April, when the reconstruction project was still only 30 percent designed, she said," Kasler wrote. "Mellon said a more accurate cost estimate should be available by Nov. 1."

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