Smithfield seeks proposals to decommission dam

Published 5:42 pm Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Smithfield’s Town Council voted unanimously with one absent on Oct. 5 to request proposals for decommissioning the Waterworks Road dam.

Repairing the structure, which decades ago provided a source of drinking water for the town, would have cost Smithfield more than $1.5 million, according to 2020 estimates. The dam area currently serves as a boat launch and public park, as the town now relies on wells for its drinking water.

Problems with the dam began in 2010 when heavy rains weakened the structure, according to past reporting by The Smithfield Times. The issue came up again last year because the dam needed another two-year permit from the state, which was requiring additional work on the structure despite a fix in 2017.

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Last year, the Town Council opted not to fix the dam and instead looked into either removing the dam and the road or draining the Smithfield Lake and building a culvert so the water can resume its flow.

Contract engineer Draper Aden & Associates has since provided the town with a study, which provides cost estimates for the remaining two options.

According to Smithfield Town Manager Michael Stallings, the culvert option ranged in price from $1.17 million to $3.2 million, and the road removal option ranged from $1.17 million to $2.65 million.

“Since these were very high level planning estimates, the estimate will become much more firm as design gets under way,” Stallings said.

The town has received a proposal from a firm that suggested using wetland credits to accomplish the work. Wetland credits, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, involve compensating for unavoidable impacts to wetlands by banking the restoration or creation of wetlands at another location. According to the recorded minutes of the Town Council’s Public Works Committee meeting on Sept. 27, this proposal did not work out due to the market on wetlands credits in this area.

As such, the town now needs to solicit proposals from competing firms.

The solicitation will officially be a request for qualifications, as opposed to a traditional request for proposals. According to Stallings, an RFQ asks firms to submit their qualifications to complete the work, the scope of which has already been defined. In this case, the town is looking for a “design-build” proposal for installing drainage structures under the roadway, meaning the same company will be doing the project’s engineering design and construction.

“Qualifications will be a primary factor in selecting a firm,” Stallings said.

Draper Aden will remain on board to help the town evaluate and select the most qualified firm, and assist with management of the project. But authorizing the RFQ doesn’t obligate the town to move forward with any firm that responds.

The town has budgeted $125,000 this fiscal year to cover at least the engineering portion of the project.

The dam is currently operating under a conditional permit from the state, which will expire in February 2022.

“We have started the process of renewing this permit for an additional two years,” Stallings said. “The dam will continue to need a permit as long as it is in existence.”

The RFQ has a tentative 18-month design-build schedule, meaning if the work is completed within that time frame, the town shouldn’t need to apply again when the requested two-year renewal expires in 2024.