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Second Appeal Analysis
PA ID# 097-99097-00; Sonoma County
PW ID# Project Worksheet 1764; Inflatable Dam
Flooding occurred in the vicinity of the Mirabel Potable Water Treatment Plant Infiltration Facility due to heavy storms between December 17, 2005, and January 3, 2006. PW 1764 was prepared for $660,175 for removal of sediment deposited by floodwaters in four infiltration ponds adjacent to the river. After PW 1764 was obligated, Sonoma County (Applicant) identified damage to an inflatable dam at the facility. The Governors Office of Emergency Services (OES) forwarded the Applicants request for a version of PW 1764 to FEMA on September 18, 2006.
The Mirabel River Diversion Structure System (MRDSS) is a 140-foot long inflatable rubber dam anchored to a concrete footing, which is raised (activated) and lowered (de-activated) depending on water demand in the county and water levels in the river. Full deflation of the device is necessary to ensure its stability during times of high river flows and flooding events. Specifications from the manufacturer of the dam, Bridgestone, state that the dam must be completely deflated whenever the water level is expected to overtop the dam by 2.2 feet or more.
The Applicant initiated deactivation of the dam on December 17, 2005, in preparation for predicted high-water levels. Due to problems with the deflation process, full deflation was not achieved until December 22, 2005. The Applicant claimed that rising water overtopped the air vent before the dam was fully deflated and remaining air in the dam caused it to rise above its design elevation. When re-activation of the dam was initiated in May 2006, leakage was detected. The Applicant asserted that excessive forces due to high river flows from the disaster caused the rubber membrane to pull loose from the inlet and caused damage to the inlet flange on the underside of the dam. The Applicant provided to FEMA maintenance records to support that this damage had not existed prior to the disaster. The Applicant also provided to FEMA a letter from Bridgestone, which attributed damage to the fact that the dam was overtopped by floodwaters while partially inflated.
Repair of the MRDSS involved installing cofferdams to enable dewatering of the site for access to the dam, removing silt and debris accumulated at the concrete footing, unbolting and removing the rubber dam from its concrete base, inspecting for and repairing damages, re-anchoring and resealing the rubber bladder, and installing additional flanges to help lock the filler pipe into the dam port.
FEMA denied the Applicants request for a version of PW 1764 in a letter dated February 9, 2007, stating that the damage was related to conditions that existed prior to the declared event. FEMA stated that the Applicants maintenance records document recurrent problems with full deflation of the dam dating back to 1996. FEMA asserted that the damage occurred because the Applicant had not resolved its maintenance problems prior to the disaster to ensure full deflation of the dam at the onset of storm events.First Appeal
The Applicant submitted its first appeal to OES on May 4, 2007. In its appeal, the Applicant acknowledged that it had experienced problems with proper deflation of the dam. However, procedures had been developed to complete deflation by milking remaining air and water contents of the dam. The Applicant also claimed that it had assessed structural solutions to the problem and determined that the operational method would be more reliable than structural solutions. The Applicant asserted in its appeal that it had been able to fully deflate the dam prior to previous storm events using the method of milking remaining contents. However, water levels during the declared event rose much faster than typical storms, which did not permit complete deflation of the dam prior to flooding. In its transmittal of the Applicants first appeal, OES asserted that there is no evidence of negligence on the part of County staff because established procedures were followed to deflate the dam at the onset of high-water flows.
The Deputy Regional Administrator denied the appeal in a letter dated October 22, 2007, stating that the dam was not operating as it was designed to operate and it took longer to deflate the dam than necessary. Therefore, it was determined that damage to the dam was not a direct result of the declared event.Second Appeal
The Applicant submitted its second appeal to OES on February 4, 2008, and provided additional information to the State on June 20, 2008. In its transmittal letters, OES supported the Applicants appeal and attached a new draft version of PW 1764 to provide funding for $516,258 for the completed cost of repairs to the MRDSS.DISCUSSION
Pursuant to 44 Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR) §206.223(a)(1) General work eligibility, an item of work must be required as a direct result of the disaster. Maintenance items that existed prior to the disaster are not eligible because they do not meet the criterion of being disaster-related. For facilities that require routine maintenance to maintain their designed function, FEMA may review pre-disaster maintenance or inspection reports to verify the pre-disaster condition and to assess eligible disaster damage. In instances where damage can be attributed to the disaster instead of lack of maintenance, repairs are eligible.
The Applicants maintenance records reflect a history of problems associated with inflation and deflation of the dam dating back to 1996. However, there is no record that the damage presented by the Applicant in its appeal was a pre-disaster condition. Maintenance records reflect that the function of the dam was not compromised prior to the disaster; the Applicant was able to maintain the dam in a raised or lowered position as needed. There is no evidence that damage occurred after the disaster and it is reasonable to conclude that the conditions during the event as portrayed by the Applicant were the cause of damage. The Applicant demonstrated through maintenance records and inspection reports that components of the dam were damaged as a result of the disaster.
Pursuant to 44 CFR §206.223(a)(1), repair of damage caused by negligence
on the part of the Applicant to take reasonable protective measures is not eligible for reimbursement. However, the Applicant demonstrated that it followed established procedures for deflation of the dam upon prediction of high-water levels. Therefore, prudent measures were taken to prevent damage and there is no evidence of negligence on the part of the Applicant.CONCLUSION
Damage to the MRDSS was determined to be a direct result of the disaster and not the result of negligence on the part of the Applicant to prevent damage. Therefore, repair of disaster-related damage of the MRDSS is eligible and the appeal is granted. Accordingly, FEMA will review documentation submitted by the Applicant to determine eligible costs, and prepare a version of PW 1764 to provide reimbursement of those eligible costs for repair of disaster-related damage.