- Cullman, Alabama

March 26, 2014

Duck River cost estimates trending down

By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — New design estimates indicate the higher-than-expected cost of the Duck River Dam is trending down — but Cullman officials won’t know exactly how much, if any, savings are confirmed until bids are finalized next month.

The total cost of the dam project is estimated at approximately $110 million, which is up approximately $40 million from initial estimates due to some unforeseen geological concerns at the site and higher-than-expected flood standards. Along with the increased price tag, local water rates will also be going up to cover the debt service for the project.

Those geological issues led engineers CH2M Hill to conduct a redesign of the project to fit the site as it stands, and the utilities board received a formal report from third-party engineers URS Corporation several months ago confirming the redesign as a sound option.

In the months since those revelations, engineers have conducted additional studies to determine what value engineering could be done to reduce the overall cost, including a rainfall study to help lower the default flood standards in an effort to shorten the spillway. Some site clearing costs have also come in under budget.

With the design complete, and final design documents available as of this week to potential contractors, engineer-of-record CH2M Hill estimates the final cost should come in at least a few million dollars below projections.

“It’s going in the right direction,” utilities board and city council member Garlan Gudger, Jr. noted at a recent meeting.

The bid deadline to construct the dam and spillway falls on April 22, with plans to have contractors on site the week of May 20 to mobilize. Officials say the tight timeline is needed to stay within the permit’s requirements to finish the dam by November 2016.

A total of seven roller-compacted concrete contractors have already pre-qualified to bid on the project.

The Duck River project has been in the works for more than a decade, after being permitted by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers than subsequently delayed by environmental challenges that have since been resolved.

The Duck River project will create a 640-acre lake with a 32-million-gallon-per-day capacity in northeast Cullman County, which will work in conjunction with the area’s current sole major water source Lake Catoma. The design will be a hybrid, with roller-compacted concrete in the center and earthen wings.

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 134.