Yelm Approves $5.4M for New Well

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The Yelm City Council on Tuesday approved three contracts related to the construction of a new well.

The council approved a $4.9 million construction contract with Prospect Construction, Inc.; a $508,000 construction management contract with RH2 Engineering, Inc., and an $18,000 SCADA Integration contract with Parametrix, Inc.

The SW Well 1A construction project is the “culmination of several years of engineering and hydrogeologic design and coordination,” according to a staff report by Public Works Director Ryan Johnstone.

“This is the first new source of potable water to be constructed as part of larger proposed water system improvements in the southwest portion of the city and it paves the way for additional future water system expansion as proposed in the current city of Yelm Water System Plan,” the report states.

Preliminary design of the well infrastructure began in 2012. The final design was completed in 2015.

Prospect Construction’s $4.9 million bid was selected as the lowest responsive bid, coming in well under the engineer’s opinion of probable construction cost: $6.5 million.

The company has done many projects of this nature in the past, Johnstone told the council. It is currently finishing up a wastewater treatment plant project for the Nisqually Indian Tribe and it’s done large projects for the city of Bellevue, he said.

“This is the type of project that they actually do quite a bit of,” he said.

RH2’s construction management contract includes full-time onsite construction inspection services as well as pre-construction service, facility startup and testing assistance, and SCADA system software

development, startup and testing, according to the staff report.

The Parametrix contract includes the work necessary to incorporate the well infrastructure into the larger water utility SCADA system, the report states. Services include making telemetry design, SCADA Telemetry startup and commissioning and training.

Funds for the project are in the city’s water construction fund, No. 431. An initial project schedule has not been reviewed yet, the report states, but it is “reasonable to assume” duration of the project will be about one year.

Johnston told the city council the new well should be up and running by the end of next summer.

The project comes at a time the city faces uncertainty over the fate of water rights granted to it by the state Department of Ecology. But Yelm Mayor Ron Harding said the well is necessary regardless of whether the city is ultimately awarded the water rights or not.

The Washington State Supreme Court heard oral argument in May regarding water rights granted to the city by the Department of Ecology. The court could take until next June to make a decision in the case.

Harding said Wednesday morning the court’s decision won’t have an impact on the well project.

“We basically have made a conscious decision that that’s a piece of infrastructure we either need as part of that decision, or part of our future decision,” Harding said. “So as the city grows as a piece of infrastructure, we can’t grow anymore without it (the well). We just made the decision that we’re going to continue to move forward in a positive direction and deal with whatever the issues are as they come.”

Currently, the city’s downtown well is its only source of drinking water, and the well draws from a shallow aquifer, Harding said.

“If that becomes unusable for any particular reason — let’s say there’s some kind of contamination that occurs — that’s our only source of drinking water,” he said. “The reality is, having the redundancy doesn’t hurt us, regardless of the Supreme Court decision.”

Additionally, the new well draws from a deep aquifer — approximately 700 feet deep, Harding said.

“It really doesn’t have an impact on the rivers and streams,” he said. “Even in our documents, it shows some slight impact. That’s really the crux of the Supreme Court case, but the reality is we had to show an impact by law. The true reality is there most likely is no impact, because of how deep the aquifer is. Rivers run very shallow. That aquifer is drawing from 700 feet deep, and so as far as being beneficial to the local habitat and environment, that’s a good decision for us.”

If the city’s water rights are denied by the Supreme Court, it won’t stop the city’s quest to get new water, Harding added.

“Eventually we have to have water to serve the population,” he said. “It’s really just a matter of time. So it’s best to continue to move forward with that infrastructure.”

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