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Second Appeal Analysis
PA ID# 037-99037-00; Los Angeles County
PW ID# 3039; Tujunga Canyon Road
Heavy rainfall during the January 2005 winter storms transported debris that blocked a drain uphill from a tied-back timber retaining wall at mile marker (MM) 14.44 on Little Tujunga Canyon Road. With the drain blocked, storm water runoff cascaded over the slope resulting in the failure of a 100-foot long section of the retaining wall along with the loss of an embankment slope 100 feet wide, to a depth of 4 feet over a slope length of 80 feet. A section of asphalt curb, 2.5 feet wide and 8 inches high, was lost over the 100 feet of failed embankment. In addition, two sections of 4 inch thick asphalt shoulder either caved in or sustained cracks over a total length of approximately 70 feet. The metal guardrail was deformed when the embankment supporting the posts failed. Project Worksheet (PW) 3039 was prepared in August 2005 for construction of a 100-foot long steel soldier pile wall with timber lagging and restoration of the integral ground behind the wall, along with replacement of the damaged asphalt shoulder and guardrail. The total project cost was estimated to be $291,734. While the PW contained several photographs of damaged road, there was no sketch or calculations illustrating the basis for the quantities in the scope of work and cost estimate.
Los Angeles County (Applicant) sent the first appeal to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), in a letter dated January 18, 2006, and OES forwarded the appeal to FEMA in a letter dated March 17, 2006, in support of the Applicant’s appeal. In the appeal, the Applicant requested that FEMA modify the scope of work to conform to the repair scheme adopted by the County and fund an additional $226,366, over the amount in the PW, for a total project cost of $518,100. The Applicant argued that FEMA based the scope of work in the PW on a design prepared by FEMA without consideration to design and construction information provided by the County at the time the PW was prepared. The Applicant noted that the normal practice of the County is to replace timber post and lagging walls with soldier pile walls using cast-in-place concrete panels. The Applicant stated that additional items needed to be added to the scope of work, consisting of 105 feet of cable railing, structural concrete for the wall along with reinforcing steel, and timber blocking for concrete forms.
FEMA responded to the Applicant’s appeal in a letter to OES, dated August 14, 2006. Citing the regulations, FEMA noted that funding for the work to restore eligible facilities is based on the design of such facilities as they existed immediately prior to the disaster. It was FEMA’s position that the scope of work provided in PW 3039 is adequate to address the disaster damage and restore the site to its pre-disaster condition. Consequently, the appeal was denied. It was further noted that, if the scope of work in the PW was inadequate based on the design prepared by the County, the Applicant could submit a Request for Scope of Work Change. In addition, if the actual construction costs exceeded FEMA’s estimate, the Applicant could request a funding adjustment at project closeout. Finally, FEMA noted that the Applicant does have the option to perform whatever type of repair it desires; however, if the County elects to construct a different type of wall they must obtain approval from the Grantee (OES) for an Improved Project in accordance with federal regulations.
The Applicant submitted the second appeal to OES in a letter dated October 2, 2006, and OES forwarded the appeal to FEMA in a letter dated November 30, 2006, in support of the Applicant’s appeal. The Applicant asserts that the first appeal was a request to modify the scope of work so as to reflect the manner of repair consistent with the County’s design to restore the site, and it was not a request for an improvement to the project. The Applicant further objects to what it terms FEMA’s literal interpretation of the regulations, which would have called for construction of a tied-back wall using timber posts, as well as timber lagging, when in fact FEMA’s scope of work allows for the use of cast-in-drilled-hole steel soldier piles and timber lagging. The Applicant states that the choice of a soldier pile wall with cast-in-place concrete panels, rather than timber lagging, is primarily a public safety issue because the project is located in a high hazard area for wildfires. The Applicant is requesting that FEMA approve additional costs in the amount of $365,014, over the amount currently obligated for the PW, for a total project cost of $656,748, which includes construction and soft costs.
In the second appeal, the Applicant presents an argument for the use of cast-in-place concrete between cast-in-drilled-hole steel soldier piles. The Applicant states that Little Tujunga Canyon Road is the sole access to various public and private facilities, including residential structures, camping sites, and an animal rescue facility. The road is a major thoroughfare through the western section of Angeles National Forest and provides access for fire fighting crews and equipment. The Applicant further states that, according to County records, the firestorms have impacted the area at least twice. Therefore, the consequences could be significant if a wall with timber lagging were to burn and fail.
A relative comparison can be made of the costs associated with the cast-in-place concrete panels and the total project cost using the information from the line item cost estimate prepared by the County in June 2005. Excluding the structural concrete and reinforcing steel, as well as the cable railing that was not identified in the original damage description, yields an estimated total project cost of $421,520, which includes 9.5 percent for force account engineering design and inspection using Curve B from the Public Assistance Guide (FEMA 322/June 2007). The estimated cost for structural concrete and reinforcing steel is $82,900, which equates to 19.7 percent of the estimated total project cost. This is very close to the 15 percent criteria for cost effectiveness in FEMA RR Policy 9526.1(7)(c)(1), and it is reasonable to assume that a benefit cost analysis would confirm this measure to be cost effective as per the requirements of the policy. Therefore, FEMA supports the Applicant’s position for the use of cast-in-place concrete, in lieu of timber lagging, as a public safety issue.
As noted in the appeal, and as shown on the plans developed by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, timber lagging is an integral component of the soldier pile wall, even with the use of cast-in-place reinforced concrete. The timber lagging serves not only as part of the formwork but also as temporary soil support until the concrete has fully cured. Therefore, it is relevant to note that the timber lagging element of the wall should also constitute a component of work that is eligible for FEMA funding. This appears to be identified as timber blocking in the County’s line item cost estimate of June 2005, and is $14,750 less than the cost for timber lagging provided for in PW 3039.
In the first appeal, the Applicant provided a line item estimate for project construction quantities and costs, plus seven percent for design and three percent for construction management, yielding a total project cost estimate of $518,100; however, the Applicant did not provide a basis for the costs used in the estimate. In the second appeal the Applicant estimates the total project cost at $656,748. While the appeal included information from the County Department of Public Works for force account labor, materials, and equipment, plus several line items for contract costs, there was no explanation provided for the difference in the two estimates. The Applicant has not provided sufficient documentation to support or justify a change in the estimated project funding. Therefore, as noted in the first appeal, the Applicant can request a funding adjustment at project closeout. At that time, detailed documentation will need to be provided in support of any adjustment to specific line items in the project scope of work, and such documentation must demonstrate that the costs are both reasonable and necessary.
FEMA supports the Applicant’s position for the use of cast-in-place concrete, in lieu of timber lagging, as a public safety issue in light of the persistent wildfire threat that exists in this locale. However, the Applicant failed to provide documentation in support of its request for an increase in project funding for $365,014. Therefore, the second appeal is granted for a change in the project scope of work; however, the issue of an increase in funding for the project will need to be addressed by the Applicant at project closeout. FEMA will prepare a version to PW 3039 that incorporates the eligible components of work associated with the addition of the cast-in-place reinforced concrete wall as a fire protection measure.