Corps defends river cleanup contract | RecordCourier.com
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Corps defends river cleanup contract

Sheila Gardner

In addition to cleaning out the debris clogging the Carson River, the Army Corps of Engineers is mopping up rumors which have dogged flood recovery efforts for the past week.

“It’s very difficult to perform contracts of this nature on an emergency short-term level when we’re trying to put out fires that might be rumors,” said Kevin Roukey, the Army Corps emergency response recovery office project manager. “Rather than get information second hand, we wish people would give us a call.”

Hostility toward the corps’ effort surfaced Sunday night during a town meeting of residents and state, county and federal officials involved in the cleanup of the river following the Jan. 1 flood and Jan. 25-26 rain.

Contractor Alton Anker, who had done emergency repairs on the damaged Carson River levee right after the flood, questioned why the corps hired a Texas firm for debris removal instead of a local contractor that would be familiar with the river. Anker said it took two days for the contractor to line up equipment.

Brian Crockett of Gardnerville who was doing work around the Riverview Mobile Home Park was taken off cleanup last week because he lacked the proper permit.

Roukey said Monday the selection was made late Sunday, Jan. 25, from a list of 15 contractors who submitted bids with the corps for two tasks – debris cleanup and what Roukey calls “flood fighting.”

The bid submittal followed a weekend of meetings among state, county and federal officials after the the state reactivated the Office of Emergency Operations Center in Washoe, Douglas and Lyon counties to deal with a renewed threat of rain.

“This event is completely unique and stands on its own as far as corps authority,” Roukey said. “The corps had no authority to act on the activities from the national disaster after the Jan. 1 flooding. The levee systems in the Carson River are not under corps authority.”

Roukey said the only action the corps can take occurs when “there is an imminent threat from a potential storm or high water conditions.”

The corps can do “flood fighting,” which Roukey said includes sandbagging and construction of temporary levee systems, and clearing debris.

He said the corps was notified on Friday, Jan. 23, by Federal Emergency Management Agency officials that help was needed. On Saturday, the corps met from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with county and state Division of Water Resources officials to identify the “hotspots” in the Carson River. Representatives worked until midnight preparing estimates and trying to contact 15 contractors that Roukey said had provided his office with information on types of equipment and services they provide.

Early Sunday bid schedules were faxed to the contractors followed by a pre-bid conference. Contractors did site visits and submitted bids back to the corps Sunday afternoon.

All proposals were faxed to the corps contracting division in Sacramento which is staffed 24 hours a day and the successful $61,110 bid was awarded to Waste Control Services in Texas about 10:30 p.m.

“That contractor was given a call around midnight on Sunday that he had received the bid. Once the contract is awarded, the contractor starts mobilizing his equipment. He showed us he intended to lease much of the equipment because he was from out of state and that is proper for these types of contracts,” Roukey said.

Roukey said the contractor said he was having trouble renting equipment, but is paid on an hourly basis “and the clock doesn’t start ticking until the equipment is in the river working.”

Roukey said the contract was modified because the corps discovered that more work needed to be done. Roukey couldn’t say Monday how much more was added to the contract.

“This was negotiated, it’s not just a continuation of the original contract or what people are calling an extension. The amount of time was an additional four days. The work will be completed Wednesday (today).”

Alan Dodd, regional manager of of Waste Control Services, said 90 percent of the $61,110 is spent locally.

“Ninety percent of the money that the government is spending for the repair work is going back to the community via heavy equipment operators and-or heavy equipment companies that are leasing us equipment to perform work,” Dodd said.

Roukey said the corps’ primary function was debris removal with large trees stacked outside of the flood plain. The contract does not include hauling the trees, sediment and other material that was clogging the river.

“Any restoration work that has to be done for irrigation infrastructure of the levee system goes to United States Department of Agriculture, FEMA or to the state. The only way we could address it is if a separate executive order or FEMA directed us to do the work. FEMA’s first role is to find out what other federal agencies have money to do those specific tasks, then they contact us. We have not been tasked by FEMA or other federal agencies to act as a contractor or construction manager to do the work.”

Once the flood work is finished, Roukey returns to his regular job as chief of the Nevada Army Corps of Engineers recovery office in Reno.

“I’d really like to point out that our main mission in response to the county and state request is flood fighting for the protection of life and property. We gave our best effort and will continue to give our best effort within the guidelines and authority of the regulations we have to deal with,” Roukey said. “We will be here for the duration.”

For information about the corps, Roukey can be reached at 886-3074 at the Disaster Field Office in Carson City or 784-5305 at the corps office in Reno.