After weeks of discussion, Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) officials may not replace the 35-year-old water line under Lincoln Road during road improvements this summer.
The decision rests on the outcome of the bidding process BBWSD officials just started for the project. Assistant district manager Dan Eisses said he was intent on signing a sole-source contract with Lynden-based Stremler Gravel, the company doing the roadwork, to replace the water line, but Washington state law prevented him from doing so.
State law requires public municipalities, including water and sewer districts, to seek multiple bidders for public works projects of a certain size. Eisses sought Stremler as the only contractor because he thought it would save the district money and the public the hassle of Lincoln Road being closed for a longer period of time.
However, state law says the only reason a municipality would be allowed to seek one bidder for a public works project is in an emergency. Eisses said he must put the water line replacement project out for bid to multiple contractors, and he hopes to have a bid for the district board of commissioners to vote on by its June 9 meeting.
Stremler gave Eisses an approximately $190,000 estimate for the water line work about a month ago. While Eisses could not legally contract with Stremler then, he said Stremler could end up doing the work anyway if theirs is the lowest bid in the upcoming weeks.
A number of contractors have already expressed their aversion to the water line replacement project because it would mean working alongside another contractor, a situation Eisses said often causes conflict. If no acceptable bids come in, the district’s board could decide to forgo the water line replacement altogether.
“It wouldn’t be the end of the world if we were not able to do it,” Eisses added.
If Whatcom County was not improving Lincoln Road, Eisses said the district would not be considering replacing the water line.
The work on the road, especially the impacting machines that compress the sub-surface portions, could cause the underlying water line to leak.
If a leak is found after the road work is completed in October, district crews would have to dig up the road again to replace the pipe, Eisses explained.
The $2.2 million road improvement project will add 12-foot lanes with 8-foot shoulders to Lincoln Road, in addition to dedicated left turn lanes at the intersections with Shintaffer and Harborview roads.
Full closures of Lincoln Road will begin in about two weeks. Alderson Road will serve as a detour route.