Miami Beach City Engineer Bruce Mowry (above) is on administrative leave following disclosure that the Indian Creek Flood Mitigation Project is not compliant with environmental policies and regulations. City spokeswoman Melissa Berthier, responding to a public records request from RE:MiamiBeach, said, “The City and Mr. Mowry are considering options on the terms of ending his employment relationship with the City. As of Friday, January 12, Mr. Mowry is on administrative leave while he reviews a waiver and release. This will be finalized sometime between January 12 and February 2.”
City Manager Jimmy Morales notified Commissioners last week that the contractor installing the new seawall along Indian Creek was not in compliance. He said he was “troubled” by the findings and said he was “closely studying the operations and practices in the engineering division, as well as the contractual responsibilities of our environmental consultant, Stantec, and construction contractor, Shoreline Foundation.”
Shoreline Foundation was ordered to stop all work on the project.
In the meantime, the City says the “increasing complexity” of the project has caused significant delays in the construction schedule and pushed the costs up 18% over the original budget. It is now expected to cost more than $30m, up from $25.5m.
The project website indicates it was anticipated to be completed in the Fall of 2017. Berthier says the project will now be broken into “two or possibly three phases” with the first phase completed within 60 days. The City will seek bids on phase 2 “in hopes of beginning construction … in summer of this year,” Berthier wrote in an email response to our questions
Phase 2 is expected to take 12-16 months. “We are awaiting confirmation from FDOT at this time as to whether the additional funding will be available. As a result, the ITB [Invitation to Bid] will have an option to reduce the limits of construction to keep the project within the proposed budget.” If that additional funding is not available, Berthier said the City “will reduce the project limits for the roadway from 41 Street down to 36 or 34 Street as necessary”.
One of the complexities of the project was private ownership of portions of the seawall from 25th - 41st Streets. As part of the process, the City sought quit claim deeds from owners in order to reconstruct the seawalls into one continuous wall. When there were few takers, the City Commission allowed for easements instead. As a result, “Almost all of the 33 properties have entered into agreements with the City,” according to Berthier.
Regarding the delays, Berthier said, “This is caused in part by specific permitting exemptions that are not available for seawalls over 500 feet in length, which came into play when the seawall became continuous from 26 - 41 streets.”
She noted, “There are many reasons [the project] is over budget, more seawall, more complex design, additional scope south of 26th Street.”
“Breaking into phases was always contemplated and was required as part of the agreement with FDOT. The City was hopeful that it could be constructed as one phase, but that agreement could not be reached. The neighborhood was informed that there was a possibility of multiple phases, but I am sure most of them were hoping for one phase as were we.”
Following completion of phase 1, Indian Creek will remain as one lane of traffic from 32nd to 27th streets.
Berthier says the City is “currently reviewing other projects for compliance. We are not aware of other situations with significant issues like this, but the review is not complete at this point.”
With regard to Stantec and Shoreline, Berthier said, “We are also reviewing other projects worked on by the team that performed this work to determine if there is a need for additional remedial measures. Obviously this type of egregious issue causes concern and raises questions about the parties involved.”
“Some of the conditions on this project, like the seawall length, are different than most of our other resilience projects. While what occurred is unfortunate, it does give us an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate the process and make any adjustments as needed,” Berthier said. “The city remains passionate and committed to moving forward with our resiliency plan.”
The project area is Indian Creek Drive between 25th and 41st Streets. The overall project includes installation of a new storm water drainage system, including a pump station at 32nd Street, upsizing sections of the existing storm water drainage system, elevating the roadway, and rebuilding the public seawall between 26th and 41st Streets.
Indian Creek Seawall Project Fallout:
city engineer on administrative leave, timeline extended
contractor ordered to stop work
corrective actions will “very likely” include removing part of the new seawall
road and greenway construction to begin later this year