In a region where generations have venerated the spawning salmon of Coho and China creeks as they traveled to the Neawanna River, salmon protection looms large in the $100 million Seaside campus building project — the cost of which has ballooned to more than $123 million.
Caution flags are flying for both the schedule and budget of the new middle and high school campus in the school district’s project summary.
Scheduling changes for fall and winter work, size reductions in the campus and tough decisions on building materials have already been logged in the project, approved by voters in 2016.
Regulatory delays, along with unforeseen impacts like weather and the economy, could shape a project that aims to have all district students in their seats at the new campus by September 2020.
A June timeline anticipated permit approvals by July 18 from the Department of State Lands and Army Corps of Engineers. The school district had proposed a combination of stream enhancement, wetland and swale creation to meet regulatory concerns about on-site waterways.
The Department of State Lands signed off on the permit application July 26.
The Army Corps has yet to do so.
“The initial mitigation plan submitted by Seaside School District didn’t adequately offset the impacts to wetlands and streams that their proposed construction would incur,” said Corps spokesman Jeffrey Henon earlier this month. “We are waiting for them to submit a revised mitigation plan that meets those impacts.”
In response, Seaside School District Superintendent Sheila Roley said, “We have been working with quality people who just kind of pushed (up) their sleeves and said, ‘OK, let’s figure it out another way,’”
While Corps approval delay is not unusual, Project Manager Jim Henry said its timing could have the greatest impact.
In its latest submission, delivered in mid-August, the district pivoted to “compensatory mitigation” — offering environmental actions at other locations to offset impacts to the original site.
School district consultant Jack Dalton designed a trade-off designating more wetland mitigation at school property along U.S. Highway 101, Henry said.
The revised application calls for a perimeter on district-owned land behind the bus barn along Neawanna Creek, into which China Creek and Coho Creek both flow.
“We’re in the same watershed,” Henry said. “Now everything seems to be running on the right path.”
In November 2016, district voters approved a bond of $99.7 million to build a new campus to replace schools located in the tsunami zone. That price tag originally included professional services and district expenses.
According to the July 2018 progress report, the total project cost stands at more than $123 million.
Expenses for construction alone total almost $100 million. Professional services and district expenses comprise the remainder.
Construction for the middle and high school building has been adjusted from $43 million in 2016 to almost $59 million today.
The per-student cost, estimated at $82,034 in 2016, is now above $96,000.
Despite the increases, the budget is “on track,” Henry said.
Part of that comes from project cutbacks.
Earlier this year, architects reduced the building footprint by about 15 percent, trimming square footage and adding a third floor to the middle- and high-school building to reduce foundation costs.
Additional “efficiencies” announced this month come in plumbing fixtures, roof drains, floor tile and construction materials — about 40 items at $30,000 or $40,000 each, Henry said.
To match expenses, the district lists revenues of $110 million in bond sales, with $5.4 million in state matching bonds and interest.
Property assets — disposition of the current high school building, Broadway Middle School, Cannon Beach Elementary and Gearhart Elementary School — are anticipated to total $7 million — a “conservative estimate,” Henry said.
Work on the Seaside Heights Elementary School renovation and addition is scheduled for mid-September. Site-clearing, erosion-control, excavation and foundation work will continue throughout the winter. The access road from the Heights to the new campus site is tentatively rescheduled for 2019.
Hoffman Construction is working six days a week to get as much done as possible before the rainy season.
“The volume of work taking place in Oregon has everyone associated with construction stretched beyond capacity,” Henry said.
R.J. Marx is The Daily Astorian’s South County reporter and editor of the Seaside Signal and Cannon Beach Gazette.