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Second Appeal Analysis
PA ID# 037-99037-00; Los Angeles County
PW ID# 775; Las Flores Canyon Road Repair
As a result of heavy rainfall during the February 2005 Winter Storms, FEMA prepared Project Worksheet (PW) #775 in October 2005 for $818,021 to fund the stabilization of a failed slope and associated restoration of pavement and appurtenances along a section of Las Flores Canyon Road, 330 feet south of culvert marker (CM) 0.98, in the Malibu area of Los Angeles County. The county disagreed with FEMA’s scope of work and funding determinations in the PW.
The PW described a damaged section of road 90 feet long, having a width of 15 feet with the failure extending to a depth of 20 feet. Photographs of the damage, included with the PW, illustrate what appears to be a typical slope failure that extended back just beyond the centerline of the road. The scope of work as set forth in the PW calls for a 112-foot long soldier pile wall, with anchored tie-backs and pre-cast reinforced concrete wall panels, to stabilize the slope, placement and compaction of backfill to restore the integral ground supporting the pavement, and reconstruction of the asphalt pavement.
Los Angeles County (Applicant) submitted a first appeal to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) on April 25, 2006. OES forwarded the appeal to FEMA on June 21, 2006. The Applicant contended that the scope of work needed to be revised to be consistent with the plans developed by its consultant for repair of the facility, and the project cost needed to be increased accordingly. The Applicant claimed that its design consultant, MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, Inc. (MACTEC), called for a 137-foot long soldier pile wall with anchored tie-backs and a cast-in-place reinforced concrete wall, as detailed in the consultant’s report of September 15, 2005. Consequently, the Applicant requested that FEMA revise PW #775 to allow for the use of a cast-in-place reinforced concrete wall, a total wall length of 137 feet, the costs of materials and labor associated with the revised scope of work, as well as engineering design and construction management proportionate to the increased scope of work. The Applicant requested an increase in project funding from $818,021 to $2,891,922. As part of the appeal, the Applicant provided a rationale for the use of a cast-in-place concrete wall rather than pre-cast reinforced concrete wall panels (date, preparer, and agency all unidentified), along with a set of plans (reduced in size) prepared by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works (LADPW), signed and sealed by a professional engineer in the state of California, as well as a line item estimate for the repair costs.
In the evaluation of the appeal, the Acting Regional Director (now Regional Administrator) did not object to the use of a cast-in-place reinforced concrete wall and did not regard this as a change in the scope of work. The Acting Regional Director denied the appeal because the Applicant provided insufficient documentation to support the increased length of wall (i.e. the need for 137 feet rather than 112 feet as defined in the PW). The Acting Regional Director further noted that an increase in the length of wall above that defined in PW #775 would necessitate a request from the Applicant for an Improved Project.
The Applicant submitted a second appeal to OES on November 15, 2006. OES forwarded the appeal to FEMA on January 12, 2007. The Applicant reiterated its position regarding the need for a change to the scope of work to comply with the design prepared by its consultant, MACTEC, along with the associated increase in the total project cost. Noting that the county’s engineer of record is responsible for the correct and appropriate repair scheme for the damaged site, the Applicant emphasized the statement that FEMA made in the first appeal response that “FEMA neither designs, nor is responsible for designing, methods of repair.” The Applicant provided a copy of the geotechnical report prepared by MACTEC, dated September 15, 2005, as documentation to support its position. The total project cost was revised to $2,073,567 in the second appeal to reflect a preliminary bid amount for the work, which apparently was received subsequent to the first appeal.
FEMA Response and Recovery Directorate Policy Number 9524.2, Landslide Policy Relating to Public Facilities, dated August 17, 1999, states that, “If the site is found to be unstable due to an identified, pre-existing condition (e.g. a deep-seated slip-plane), the applicant is responsible for stabilizing the site. Once the site has been stabilized, the cost to restore the facility at the original site is eligible.”
The geotechnical report prepared by MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, Inc., dated September 15, 2005, indicates that the section of Las Flores Canyon Road that failed in 2005 is immediately adjacent to a section of road that failed in 1998 and was repaired by LADPW. Furthermore, the MACTEC geotechnical report indicates [p. 3 and Figure 3] that both the 1998 and 2005 failures lie within an historic landslide (Qls) mapped by LADPW and “… this slide was considered to have been active in the historic past (LADPW, 1998).” The MACTEC geotechnical report further states [pp. 5 & 6] that, “The 2005 slope failure is located directly north and adjacent to the 1998 slope failure described by LADPW in their June 11, 1998 geotechnical report. Due to the close proximity of the two slope failures it is interpreted that both are recently reactivated portions of the larger historic landslide (Qls).” The MACTEC geotechnical report goes on to state [p. 9] that, “The margin of the older historic landslide (Qls), as mapped by LADPW (1998), passes adjacent to Boring B-2 and merges with the limits of the 2005 failure near Boring B-3 (Figure 3). The presence of a slip plane (N5ºW, 45-50ºSW) at an 8 foot depth in Boring B-1 and the close proximity of the boundaries of the historic landslide and the 2005 failure, suggests that the 2005 failure reactivated a portion of the historic slide mass and that the basal plane of the two failures may be coincident as shown in Sections A-A’, and B-B’.”
Based on the MACTEC report, the 2005 slope failure occurred within the area of an ancient landslide that LADPW considers to have been active in the recent past. This activity is confirmed by the fact that a section of the road immediately adjacent to the 2005 slope failure failed in 1998. Furthermore, the Applicant’s geotechnical consultant believes that the surface on which the failure mass slid in 2005 may be an extension of the same surface on which the failure mass slid in 1998. Consequently, while the February 2005 Winter Storms may have triggered the recent slope failure, this failure was not exclusively caused by the declared incident. The failure is attributable in part to geologic conditions that existed at the site prior to the disaster.
Because the slope failure is located within a pre-existing slide area, the scope of work described in PW 775 is not eligible for funding. The eligible scope of work is limited to repairing the damaged road pavement and associated appurtenances. Therefore, FEMA will de-obligate all funding in PW 775 except for $38,358 (see attached) which is the estimated cost to repair the road pavement, guard rail, and traffic control. Accordingly, the appeal is denied.