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Second Appeal Letter
PA ID# 015-99015-00; Cowlitz County
PW ID# 1767; Kalama River Road Damage and Slope Stabilization
July 5, 2012
Washington Military Department
Emergency Management Division
MS: TA-20, Building 20B
Camp Murray, Washington 98430-5122
Re:Second Appeal–Cowlitz County, PA ID 015-99015-00, Kalama River Road Repair and Slope Stabilization, FEMA-1817-DR-WA, Project Worksheet (PW) 1767
Dear Mr. Mullen,
This letter is in response to your letter dated January 19, 2011, which transmitted the referenced second appeal on behalf of Cowlitz County (Applicant). The Applicant is appealing the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) denial of funding in the amount of $575,000 for slope stabilization and repair of Kalama River Road.
Severe winter storms between January 6 and January 16, 2009, resulted in foundation movement below mile marker 9.16 of Kalama River Road, Cowlitz County, Washington. FEMA prepared PW 1767 to repair cracking and 6 inches of sagging to 100 feet of the roadway caused by integral ground movement. FEMA determined that the site was unstable prior to the declared event based on the thickness and frequency of paving of the roadway surface. On September 15, 2009, FEMA approved PW 1767 in the amount of $9,040 to repair the roadway surface and base, contingent upon stabilization of the site by the Applicant prior to repair.
The Applicant submitted a first appeal letter on November 4, 2009, stating that the instability that caused the road damage was a direct result of the declared event. The Applicant disagreed with FEMA's determination that the site was unstable prior to the event and that the presence of 14-inches of asphalt at the surface of the roadway suggested continued maintenance and repairs for chronic embankment settlement. With the appeal, the Applicant submitted the results of a geotechnical investigation of the site, which concluded that saturation of the soil and elevated ground water prompted the failure of the slope. The report disputed the presence of pre-existing instability as “[a] high potential for slope instability does not indicate prior instability and should not be considered a pre-existing condition since the ability of the soil to resist movement was reduced as a result of the disaster.” A December 31, 2009, letter from the State of Washington’s Emergency Management Division (State) transmitted the appeal to FEMA and supported the Applicant's claims. The State requested that additional borings be approved to establish the standard depth of asphalt on undamaged sections of the roadway.
FEMA Region X denied the Applicant's appeal in a letter dated August 27, 2010. FEMA's response restated that the presence of very thick pavement indicated the common practice of overlaying additional pavement in areas of sagging road surfaces. FEMA’s analysis considered the gradual slipping and/or settlement an indication of ongoing and underlying failure. In addition, available data indicated that the native soils at the site may have been unstable. This was recognized by both the Applicant's geotechnical consultant and FEMA’s geotechnical consultant based on the one boring that was taken in the damaged area after the movement occurred. FEMA concluded that any work associated with the instability of the native soil interface and the embankment would be ineligible in accordance with FEMA Recovery Policy 9524.2, Landslides and Slope Failures, dated May 23, 2006. FEMA also determined that the request for additional borings would not be considered an eligible item of work.
The Applicant appealed this determination in a letter dated November 18, 2010, and provided additional information to support their appeal on April 20, 2011. The Applicant reiterates that susceptibility to instability of native soils does not mean that the site was unstable prior to the event. The appeal states that the thickness of the asphalt at the site was due to multiple overlays over 40 years of routine maintenance. Further, the Applicant requests that FEMA approve the cost of $575,000 to construct a shear key buttress to stabilize the site prior to performing repair to the damaged roadway.
A review of all available documentation did not reveal any direct evidence of slope movement prior to the declared event. The limited data in the Applicant's geotechnical report supports the finding that the type of foundation soils encountered in the borehole are highly susceptible to instability, thereby, identifying where potential slip planes may have existed during the event. The report specifically states, however, that although there have historically been sections of Kalama River Road that have suffered slope failure, this particular section of the roadway has not experienced any prior instability. In addition, the thick pavement encountered in the damaged area is reportedly the result of multiple overlays in over 40 years of routine maintenance. The Applicant states that county roadways are typically on a seven year scheduled road overlay rotation. Maintenance records supplied by the Applicant support this maintenance schedule. With respect to the post event stability of the site, January 19, 2011, inclinometer readings from the single borehole show that the fill portion of the roadway foundation has moved approximately 0.6 inches in about 21 months with no movement recorded in the native soils. This movement is not considered significant and is likely due to soil settlement rather than slope instability.
Initially the Applicant requested $575,000 to construct a shear key buttress to stabilize the slope. Although construction of the shear key buttress was assumed by the Applicant to be the most cost effective repair, no actual cost data was developed to support the request for funding. In their submittal of additional information, the Applicant indicated that costs and specific details were not developed for any of the stabilization alternatives discussed in the geotechnical report.
FEMA Recovery Policy 9524.2, Landslides and Slope Failures, dated May 23, 2006, allows for repair of failed integral ground if the site is determined to be stable. The policy also allows for the stabilization of a facility’s integral ground if there was no prior history of instability at the site and provided the work to stabilize the site is cost-effective. Based on all the available data, it appears that the combination of soil saturated as a result of the declared event and high ground water elevation triggered the slope failure. Therefore, the stabilization of the slope and restoration of the integral ground are eligible for reimbursement under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. However, the absence of details on the scopes and cost effectiveness of the proposed stabilization measure, along with viable alternatives, renders the eligibility of the requested $575,000 indeterminable at this time.
I have reviewed the information submitted with the appeal and have determined that the eligible work to repair damage to the pertinent 100 feet of Kalama River Road includes slope stabilization and restoration of integral ground. Therefore, by copy of this letter, I am requesting the Regional Administrator to direct Region X staff to work with the Applicant to identify and evaluate viable stabilization measures, and to fund the most cost effective approach with an amendment to PW 1767. The scope of work and cost estimate of the amendment should also include restoration of the integral ground.
Please inform the Applicant of my decision. This determination is the final decision on this matter pursuant to 44 CFR §206.206, Appeals.
cc: Kenneth Murphy
FEMA Region X