By Dale Kasler
April 15, 2017

Blowing past state officials’ financial projections, three construction contractors submitted bids for the Oroville Dam repairs that begin at $275 million, the Department of Water Resources said Saturday.

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DWR, in a brief announcement, said its engineers had estimated the repairs to the two damaged spillways would come in at $220 million.

The low bid was $275.4 million from a subsidiary of Kiewit Corp. of Omaha, Neb.; followed by an affiliate of Barnard Construction Co. of Bozeman, Mont., at $277 million. The high bid was made by Oroville Dam Constructors, a joint venture between Sacramento’s Teichert Construction and Granite Construction of Watsonville, at $344.1 million.

Although the low bid exceeded DWR’s estimates, state officials said they were pleased with the pricing. “The bids were very reasonable, and very close to one another,” said spokeswoman Erin Mellon of DWR’s parent agency, the Natural Resources Agency.

DWR said it would spend the weekend reviewing the bids and declare a winner Monday. The work itself isn’t likely to start until late May or early June; DWR has just resumed operating the battered main spillway in order to reduce the water level at Lake Oroville in anticipation of a heavy spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada.

The low bid doesn’t automatically secure state contracts, although price typically accounts for at least 50 percent of the scoring system the state uses to evaluate bids, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Department of General Services. Other criteria include the bidders’ responsiveness to the state’s goals for the project.

The winning bidder will undertake one of the most vexing construction projects the state has seen in years: repairing two structures whose problems triggered a near catastrophe Feb. 12, when engineers feared the emergency spillway would fail and a “wall of water” would overwhelm the Feather River. Officials ordered the temporary evacuation of 188,000 downstream residents.

The repair job is so massive that DWR officials have acknowledged it will take two years. They expect to have the two spillways operational in time for the next rainy season, however.

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