County awards $6.4 million contract for Oso debris sifting

EVERETT — After months of searching and sifting, Snohomish County is getting down to the long-term clean-up of the landscape left by the Oso mudslide.

The County Council on Wednesday approved a $6.4 million contract with low bidder IMCO General Construction. The Ferndale company recently completed work for the state Department of Transportation clearing debris from Highway 530.

The county job will involve an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of debris that search and rescue crews moved around. The material sits in giant mounds on either side of the mile-wide slide zone.

“We’re actually going to be going through debris that the search and rescue teams moved onto private property,” said Gary Haakenson, a county executive’s office director overseeing slide recovery. “We’ll be respectful in that process as we go through clearing that debris.”

Contractors will screen the material for human remains and personal effects. That’s in addition to earlier screening during the emergency phase.

The March 22 slide killed 43 people. One person, Kris Regelbrugge, is still missing. The county called off active search operations in late April.

The latest contract brings the current tally of slide costs to about $19 million, Haakenson said. That includes the emergency response that began immediately after disaster struck.

The county later this month expects to sign off on two additional contracts related to processing the slide debris that will add millions more to the cost, Haakenson said. The county hopes federal and state government reimbursements will cover up to 85 percent of the total expense.

The upcoming work will involve sorting, screening and grading, county solid waste director Matt Zybas said. It’s set to begin by June 25 and end by late September.

“We need to stabilize the site as best we can and re-contour it to be more of a natural setting,” Zybas said.

Proper drainage is another concern.

Crews hope to leave most of the dirt on site, Zybas said. Dirt and rock is believed to account for about 80 percent of the material.

Crews plan to grind up trees and other vegetation and leave it in place as wood chips, Zybas said. The county will send household waste to landfills and dispose of any hazardous chemicals.

The contract also calls for clearing portions of the Whitehorse Trail, a former rail corridor roughly parallel to Highway 530. The trail now serves mainly for recreation. Motor vehicles are prohibited from using it.

The county work involves only a small fraction of the material that the slide unleashed. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated the total at 10 million cubic yards.

The slide buried roughly one mile of roadway under an estimated 90,000 cubic yards of material. IMCO Construction received a $4.9 million contract to clear that material to allow for the partial reopening.

The firm finished the work sooner and at lower cost than expected. The final tab was around $3.5 million, WSDOT spokesman Travis Phelps said.

One lane of the highway reopened at the end of May; drivers are led slowly behind a pilot car.

State transportation officials hope to rebuild Highway 530 by late October. The state awarded a $20.6 million contract to Colorado-based Guy F. Atkinson Construction for the work.

State and county officials have scheduled community meetings in Darrington, Oso and Arlington next week to discuss plans for rebuilding the highway and related issues.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

Meetings

Upcoming community meetings about Highway 530 reconstruction

June 17: Darrington, 7 to 9 p.m., Darrington Community Center, 570 Sauk Ave.

June 18: Arlington, 6 to 8 p.m. Stillaguamish Senior Center, 18308 Smokey Point Blvd., Arlington

June 19: Oso, 7 to 9 p.m. Oso Community Chapel, 22318 Highway 530, Arlington

If you cannot attend any of the meetings, send questions and comments to SR530Info@wsdot.wa.gov.

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