Hoquiam city council approves $879,000 amendment regarding North Shore Levee

The Hoquiam City Council took a step toward the protection of Hoquiam and Aberdeen when it approved amending a contract with HDR Engineering, Inc.

The city of Hoquiam, who’s managing the contract with HDR, agreed to the $879,000 amendment — which Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay called “the first authorized spending” of the federally-funded $18.5 million that is part of the $35.5 million money for the North Shore Levee (NSL) and North Shore Levee West Segment (NSLWS). HDR is responsible for the design of both the Aberdeen and Hoquiam portions of the levee.

The $879,000 will pay for the final design of the levee segment that surrounds the Aberdeen Wastewater Treatment Plant. The $879,000 is an addition to the $4.6 million that was already approved for that specific segment of the levee. To be clear, this is from federal funding.

“The purpose of this amendment is to add an additional task and funding to complete final design and permitting work associated for the North Shore Levee and Aberdeen Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) Segment,” city documents state.

Why is this a Hoquiam issue?

“HDR is designing the North Shore Levee project for the two cities, regardless if its the Hoquiam section or Aberdeen,” Shay said. “From one end to the other, (HDR) is designing the whole thing.Hoquiam is the agency that’s managing the contract with HDR. Realistically, Aberdeen could have hired HDR to do this specific design but since we already had agreements in place with HDR to do the North Shore Levee design, we already have grant funding that is covering the original North Shore Levee, it just made sense to amend the agreement for that design and to add that work into the Hoquiam contract with HDR on behalf of both cities.”

Shay said when the levee goes to bid, the levee segment surrounding the WWTP will go to bid at the same time as the whole NSL project, but the segment around the WWTP will be treated like its own separate project because it will have its own funding source.

Are NSL and NSLWS on time?

“Yeah, I feel like we’re still tracking with the same schedule that we pursued the last year,” Shay said. “Getting permits is really, to me, the biggest driver. It takes a long time, they say two to three years to get the federal permits once they’re submitted. I think the best guess, we’re probably under construction on the west (side) in 2026. And on the North Shore Levee, the one that spans the two cities, that’s probably 2027. The North Shore Levee West (Segment) is at 90% designed. When a project hits 90% designed, you’re very close to being, from a plan specification standpoint, bid ready. But we’re gonna be in a holding pattern for 18 to 24 months until we get the permits. Once the permits come in, the regulatory agencies, they may identify some specific change you need to make in the plans. (Once) you make that change, you go from 90 to 100%.”

Shay said the “hope” is construction starts near the end of 2025, but that might not happen.

“That’s the hope, but the federal permitting process right now is so backed up,” Shay said. “It didn’t used to take that long to get federal permits but right now that’s what the regulatory agencies are telling us, is that once the permits are in, it could take two to three years to get through the process, which to me I think it’s ridiculous that it could take that long. It’s not right. To me, there’s no need for it but they claim they’re understaffed and they’re too busy. But these are critical infrastructure projects that need to get permitting done.”

Given the difficulties for the permitting process, Shay said it would take about 18 months to do construction on both the NSL and NSLWS. That means his best estimate for when the projects are done “sometime between 2025 and 2027 or 2025 and 2028.”

“For both of them, it’s safe to say that construction is estimated between, you know, starting in 2025 and being complete by 2028, hopefully it’ll be sooner,” Shay said. “We’re doing everything we can to make it happen as quick as possible for the benefit of the citizens. Plus, the longer it takes the more it’s gonna cost because of inflation. So, we want to get it out to bid as quick as we can.”

Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at matthew.wells@thedailyworld.com.