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Bids to be sought for Prairie View repairs

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The Flexamat material over the spillway at Prairie View is shown after excessive flows from snow melt and rain undercut the soil below the mat last month. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — While the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District continues to await word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding mitigation funds to repair the twice-failed Prairie View structure, district managers voted in a special meeting Tuesday to seek bids for a potential fix.

Contractors will be asked to submit bids on a short time frame so the board can take action at its Aug. 6 meeting. The bid opening is slated for 2 p.m. that day. OOWD Administrator Dan Livdahl said if a bid is accepted, the work will be expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Bidders will be asked to calculate costs for site restoration, removal of the existing Flexamat fabric, reshaping the spillway face, adding suitable fill and coarse filter aggregate, as well as Class 4 riprap to cover the spillway.

This will be the second attempted major fix to the project since it was constructed in the fall of 2017. The Flexamat, a stabilization fabric used in the initial construction to cover the spillway, first failed in June 2018, when the area received nearly seven inches of rain in 24 hours.

The second failure of the system came in early April, when heavy rains combined with rapid snowmelt to undermine the Flexamat system once again.

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The Prairie View project was constructed on the former Prairie View Golf Links — city-owned land — with the premise that it would act as a filter for runoff from adjacent agricultural lands. The ponds were to allow sediment and phosphorus to settle to the bottom, thereby cleaning up the water before it reached Lake Okabena.

Livdahl said the specifications for the repair including covering the spillway with geotextile fabric, followed by crushed rock and Class 4 riprap — stones up to two feet in size.

“The bad part about those stones is you can’t get them in right next to each other,” Livdahl said. “With smaller stones, you can fill the voids.”

That said, Livdahl said he and city engineer Dwayne Haffield believe the new design will “do the job,” while the engineers at Wenck Associates, who developed the initial design, believe it will work as well.

There was some discussion about the cost and who should cover it during Tuesday’s special meeting. Manager Steve Bousema said the district shouldn’t have to pay for any of the repairs — that it should fall on the companies who designed and constructed it.

“I just feel the engineer hasn’t figured out how to fix it yet,” Bousema said. “Why do we have to pay their bill?”

Chairman Rolf Mahlberg said discussion about who will fund the repairs should wait until the bids are received. He pointed out that board action taken in June — a meeting from which Bousema was absent — directed Livdahl to get an engineer’s estimate to put the repair project out for bids. The action requested Tuesday was simply to advertise for bids.

“We need to get it fixed as soon as possible and we need to spend the money so we don’t make it worse,” added Manager Jay Milbrandt.

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Ultimately, the board approved on a 3-0 vote a motion to advertise for bids. Managers Casey Ingenthron and Jeff Rogers were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Livdahl noted that while the OOWD hasn’t received any confirmation from FEMA about reimbursement for damages to the system either last fall or this spring, it’s possible the district could seek mitigation funds for the Prairie View project. Those funds are only available for projects to be repaired in a manner different from what was existing. Since the district had a contractor try to repair the spillway to original specs last fall and it failed, this would be an option.

“I think we’d be eligible for some disaster assistance money — maybe up to 100 percent of the costs,” Livdahl said. “There’s no way of knowing until you go through the process.”

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