Clallam commissioners reject McDonald Creek fish passage bid

A fish passage improvement project at McDonald Creek south of U.S. Highway 101 received a bid earlier this month after getting none the previous two years, but it was more than 2-and-a-half times the county engineer’s estimate and available funding.

“The recommendation is to reject the bid, regroup and come back at a later time,” county administrator Todd Mielke said at the Clallam County Commissioners’ work session on May 13.

The lone bid, by Bruch and Bruch Construction of Port Angeles on May 7, was $2,035,390.

The county engineer’s estimate is $500,000 to $700,000.

McDonald Creek crosses beneath U.S. Highway 101 and Old Olympic Highway, about 9 miles east of Port Angeles. The project would be south of U.S. Highway 101.

It would open up 6.1 miles of habitat to Endangered Species Act-listed steelhead and 4.5 miles to coho, according to Rebecca Mahan, habitat biologist with the Clallam County Department of Community Development.

It is intended to rectify a long-known fish passage barrier and remove sources of fish mortality associated with a small concrete irrigation diversion dam. The project also is intended to improve habitat conditions, sediment and wood transport in the creek.

It would involve notching the dam, installing a new fish passage structure, and constructing rock weirs and pools below the dam. The existing open diversion canal would be replaced by a buried pipeline with a new head gate and debris rack, and the existing fish screen would be relocated to the new head gate area.

“I reached out to my vendors and Agnew Irrigation District and everyone was kind of blown away,” Mahan said.

“We don’t have the funding. We’re trying to figure out if we can get some more funding somewhere else. And then there’s permits. I don’t know what we are going to do. And the fish window has passed.”

A staff memo to the commissioners stated that typically when bids go over the estimate, a few identifiable items can help explain, but in this case, the prices are high for almost all the bid items.

“The difference is orders of magnitude greater than what was anticipated,” the memo stated.

The memo also said that although this is a small but relatively complicated project, the high bid probably reflects the tight timeline, difficult access conditions and space constraints.

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure we were going to receive any bids, which was my first worry,” commissioner Randy Johnson said. “Then to get a bid more than twice what we have available. If I were the bidder, I might bid the same way to cover myself. I don’t know.”