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Second Appeal Letter
PA ID# 015-99015-00; Cowlitz County
PW ID# 1742; Mahaffey Road Damage and Slides
March 22, 2012
Mr. Gerard Urbas
Deputy State Coordinating Officer
State of 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, Mahaffey Road Damage and Slides, FEMA-1817-DR-WA, Project Worksheet (PW) 1742
Dear Mr. Urbas:
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 related to Mahaffey Road damage and slides.
Heavy rains in January 2009 resulted in the failure of a portion of Mahaffey Road in Cowlitz County, Washington, roughly 30 feet in length and 6 feet in width. FEMA approved and obligated PW 1742 on September 15, 2009, in the amount of $1,640 to repair the embankment and roadway surface damage.
On November 16, 2009, the Applicant submitted a first appeal of PW 1742 because it excluded funding for any site stabilization activities on the basis that the slope failure was the result of pre-existing site instability. The Applicant contended that the site was stable prior to the event and the failure was a result of the declared disaster. The Applicant requested additional funding totaling $424,995.
On August 27, 2010, the Regional Administrator denied the first appeal, stating that “the exclusion of the funding of site stabilization for this project was the correct decision” and “the damages were caused by pre-existing instability.” This determination was supported by the geotechnical reports prepared by FEMA’s consultant and the Applicant’s consultant, both of which identified evidence of prior site movement. FEMA’s consultant also identified prior slope movement documented in a Damage Survey Report (DSR) from a previous disaster declaration, FEMA 1079-DR-WA. In addition, FEMA noted asphalt pavement and base rock thickness beyond normal maintenance and consistent with attempts to re-level the road due to slumping.
The Applicant submitted a second appeal in a letter dated November 23, 2010. The State of Washington Emergency Management Division (State) forwarded the Applicant’s second appeal on January 19, 2011, concurring with Region X’s first appeal determination. The Applicant’s second appeal stated that the multiple instances of damage at the Mahaffey Road location stemmed from two separate Presidentially-declared disaster events and from different failure mechanisms. The Applicant requested that the work to repair the slope be determined eligible for Public Assistance funding in the amount of $317,300, actual costs incurred to date. The Applicant did not submit any new information with the second appeal request.
Following the event, the Applicant hired an independent geotechnical firm Foundation Engineering Inc. (FEI) to perform a geotechnical investigation of the embankment failure for Mahaffey Road commencing in February 2009. FEI’s memorandum dated March 18, 2009 provided an analysis of site conditions and mitigation options including embankment reconstruction, a retaining wall and road realignment. The FEI report confirmed that the area may be part of an inactive landslide and concluded “[t]he landslide appears to primarily consist of an embankment failure, where the granular embankment fill is sliding on the underlying clay. However, considering the location of the slide near the toe of an inactive slide and the topographic features observed above the road, we believe that movement may extended (sic) into the medium stiff landslide soil.”
FEMA identified pre-disaster slope movement at the same road location. FEMA prepared DSR 49152 (1079-DR-WA) for Mahaffey Road damage resulting from flooding in November and December 1995. According to site visit notes at the time, there was continuous movement of the slope observed while determining the type of repairs to be completed. The Applicant repaired the 1995 damages by installing granular material and subsequently installing aggregate base material and an asphalt concrete road surface.
Another indication of prior site movement is the excessive asphalt layers noted in FEMA’s geotechnical consultant’s memorandum dated May 29, 2009. In response to this observation, the Applicant acknowledges settlement, or slumping, of the road surface stating that the granular material “appears to have experienced settlement in the years since its initial placement” requiring ongoing maintenance in the years since its initial placement (Applicant’s first appeal letter). Furthermore, the Applicant confirmed prior instability at this site by quoting FEI’s conclusion that “[t]he previous slope movement responsible for the thickened pavement was the result of slope movement from the 1996 repairs.”
Based on the above, it is evident that the site has experienced ongoing movement over the years and was unstable prior to FEMA 1817-DR-WA. FEMA Recovery Policy RP9524.2, Landslides and Slope Failures establishes eligibility 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. Since pre-existing instability at Mahaffey Road has been confirmed, FEMA determined that the scope of work and costs to stabilize this site are ineligible for funding. In addition, pursuant to Public Assistance Guide, FEMA 322, dated June 2007, if the site was unstable before the disaster, the Applicant must pay to stabilize the site before Public Assistance funds are provided to repair the facility.
I have reviewed the information submitted with the second appeal and have determined that the Regional Administrator’s decision in the first appeal is consistent with Public Assistance regulations and policy. Accordingly, I am denying the second appeal.
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