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Second Appeal Analysis
PA ID# 043-52326-00; City of New Albany
PW ID# 568; Slope Stabilization
Severe rainstorms from April 19 through June 6, 2011, resulted in flooding in the City of New Albany. The City of New Albany (Applicant) identified 165 linear feet of road damage, caused by extensive overland flooding, consisting of longitudinal cracking and displacement along Spring Street Hill Road. FEMA prepared PW 568 in the amount of $222,995, developed using the Cost Estimating Format, to repair the roadway and stabilize the failed slope. Upon review, FEMA determined that the damaged slope was unstable prior to the disaster event and, in accordance with FEMA Recovery Policy 9524.2, (RP9524.2), Landslides and Slope Stability Related to Public Facilities, dated October 8, 2010, the road repair was not eligible for funding until the slope is stabilized by the Applicant. On February 7, 2012, FEMA notified the Applicant of the denial of funding.
The Applicant submitted a first appeal to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (Grantee) on April 25, 2012. The first appeal requested reimbursement of the total denied costs of $222,995. The Applicant asserted that the site was damaged from the significant water run-off overwhelming the local drainage channels thereby penetrating the slope and causing the failure. The Applicant further acknowledged the historical instability of this region but stated that this section of road embankment had been stabilized. The Grantee forwarded the Applicant’s first appeal to FEMA with an email dated May 7, 2012.
On June 5, 2012, the Regional Administrator (RA) denied the first appeal with a letter explaining that review of the documentation submitted by the Applicant outlines a history of slope instability and failures along Spring Street Hill Road throughout the seven years prior to the declared event, as well as efforts to stabilize sections of the roadway. The RA noted that at the damage site, cracks in the asphalt resulting from the instability of the integral ground were identified prior to the incident period. The road failure that occurred during the incident period stemmed from these subsurface defects. RP9524.2 states “restoration of a facility’s integral ground is ineligible if the site instability was NOT caused by the disaster (i.e. there is evidence of instability after the facility was constructed and before the disaster).”
The Regional Administrator also noted that the Applicant’s appeal letter was received beyond the sixty day timeframe allowed under 44 CFR §206.206, Appeals.
The Applicant submitted a second appeal on August 22, 2012, which the Grantee transmitted to FEMA on August 23, 2012. In the second appeal, the Applicant maintains that the slope failure was a direct result of the disaster event and not the subsurface defects. In support of the second appeal the Applicant submitted a letter from its consulting engineers, Jacobi, Toombs & Lanz, Inc., questioning the validity of RP9524.2 as it relates to this specific project’s geographic location, and reiterates its previous position that the pavement subsidence failure in May 2010 (same location of the current slope failure) was repaired and stabilized. No additional documentation was submitted to support its claim.
The Applicant, in its second appeal, has reiterated its position that the heavy rain and flooding event caused the slope failure. FEMA does not dispute the claims related to the impact of high ground water saturation. However, the Applicant has not provided documentation to support its claim that the site was stable prior to the event. Pursuant to RP9524.2 eligibility is based upon the history of site stability or instability. If the site is not stable and there is evidence of historical instability, the cost to stabilize the site is the responsibility of the Applicant.
When examining slope failures and landslides, FEMA looks at a number of indicators to determine if a site has experienced previous movement (historic instability). One indication of historic instability is the presence of excessively thick asphalt. Layers of asphalt concrete are applied to restore the elevation of the road rather than address the root cause of the slope movement. As noted in Spring Street Hill Pavement Study, Preliminary Engineering Report by Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz, Inc. (JTL) dated January 2004, the Applicant’s consulting engineer states:
“The structural condition of the asphalt pavement on Spring Street Hill has, for a long time, been a concern of City officials because of the potential safety hazard created for the road user. In the past the City has attempted to correct the problem by installing more asphalt on top of the defective surface. These additional layers of asphalt failed and cracked in a very short period because the pavement failure stems from subsurface defects, which were further complicated by added weight of the new asphalt.”
In addition, JTL produced a chronological summary of road failures entitled Spring Street Hill Road – Past and Current Events, dated August 19, 2011. In this summary the consultant provides photos capturing the poor road conditions starting in 2003 and continuing through 2011.
Another common indicator of historical instability is evidence of previous repairs in immediate proximity to a slope and roadway surface cracking above an area where a recent road failure was repaired. In September of 2008, major road reconstruction of Spring Street Hill Road began and was completed April 2009. Three months following the completion of the road, a severe rain event occurred damaging the road. JTL inspected the road system and documented a slope failure, several areas where rip-rap and stone was displaced, a broken telephone pole, and a 35 to 40 foot half-moon shaped crack near the top of the road (same location as the current failure). The crack was reportedly sealed to prevent the direct infiltration of precipitation. By May of 2010 the crack opened and had expanded two inches. The Applicant contracted an excavation company to remove and replace the failed road section (90 feet long, 11.5 feet wide and 4.5 to 6 feet deep). In January of 2011 cracks were observed uphill of the replaced road section. Another consulting engineer, Hagerty Engineering, was contracted to assess the pavement damage. While the report states there is no current evidence of movement or instability at the shoulder, adjacent slope, or Terramesh walls, it concludes:
“It is important to state again that the nature of the unstable geology in the project area means that the site subgrade will be particularly sensitive to extreme precipitation events, because the instability trigger is water. Historic placement of variable fill in isolated areas will increase the chance in movement in those areas during extreme events”.
Two weeks prior to the disaster incident period a contractor noted a ½ to ¾ inch separation in the road joint between the 2009 reconstruction and the 2010 excavated road section with longitudinal distress observed uphill of this section. After the disaster event the separation continued until the eventual failure of the road section.
A slope that has experienced significant movement prior to a catastrophic collapse will exhibit many but not all of the indicators above. While the total collapse of the slope appears to be the result of the declared event, the slope failure cannot be attributed entirely to the declared event since there is evidence based on slope stability indicators exhibited at the site, that this section of road has experienced previous movement. Therefore, as there is evidence of historical instability, the cost of slope stabilization is the responsibility of the Applicant in accordance with RP9524.2.
The information pertaining to this project demonstrates evidence of historical instability at the site prior to the disaster event. The requested funding to repair the roadway and stabilize the failed slope is not eligible. The Applicant may apply for Public Assistance funding for repairs to the road once the slope has been stabilized by the Applicant. However, the Applicant did not submit documentation that demonstrates that the slope has been stabilized. If the Applicant can provide such documentation to the Region, a PW will be prepared to reimburse the Applicant for the road repair costs.