GC/CM at Post Falls: Managing Avista’s North Channel Dam Rehabilitation Project

For nearly 120 years, the Post Falls Dam has provided renewable, low-cost, clean energy by tapping into power of the Spokane River downstream from Coeur d’Alene Lake near the City of Post Falls, Idaho. Composed of the Middle, North, and South Channels, the Dam also helps control the water levels of the lake along with several nearby rivers. The dam also provides fishing, boating, and other recreational activities at Falls Park and Q’emiln Park during warmer weather. Post Falls dam is operated by Avista Utilities, a renewable energy operator founded in 1889 serving more than 400,000 customers across 30,000 square miles in the Northwestern U.S.

In 2021, Avista assessed the condition of the North Channel Dam and saw the need for a spillway rehabilitation project. The project will rehabilitate the dam’s concrete structure, replace the steel spillway gates and gate hoists, and upgrade electrical and control systems. To help deliver the project as planned, Avista opted to use the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) method, and selected Hill International as the Owner’s Representative to provide program, project, and construction management, along with related support services.

CM/GC brings together the Owner, Design Engineer, and Contractor, fabricators, and other key parties together—fostering a true partnering approach. The team succeeds as one, rather than placing different consultants in rigid, separate roles. Increasingly, owners are finding GC/CM can deliver numerous cost, schedule, quality, and other benefits.

Since joining the team in late 2022, Hill has helped to facilitate design engineer and contractor selection and contracting, along with supporting permit development and requirements definition as well as created an integrated program schedule capturing design, permitting, and construction in Oracle Primavera Cloud.

Patrick McCord, DBIA

Hill team Program Manager Patrick McCord, DBIA, explained: “There are two main phases we’re supporting: preconstruction and construction, which encompasses design and permitting. Currently, the two are overlapping with construction scheduled to start this Spring and preconstruction to end in early 2025. So far, we developed the RFPs and completed the Design Validation phase. We then worked with Avista to procure the Design Engineer, Schnabel Engineering, and the CM/GC contractor, Slayden Constructors. Now, design is nearing completion and we’re moving ahead with other preconstruction activities as a cohesive unit.”

Early in the preconstruction phase, Hill collaborated with Slayden to develop a phased design and construction schedule to meet the schedule requirements and constraints for the project. “We’re making sure early design and permitting packages accommodate procurement timeframes and optimize work during the in-water season,” adds McCord.

Ryanne Truex

Hill team Senior Project Controls Manager Ryanne Truex noted preparing comprehensive design submittal packages for the North Channel Dam project is critical to meeting the Hydro compliance requirements for the project.

Truex says a great deal of the team’s work encompasses coordination with the wider team, which is fitting in an CM/GC project. “We lead coordination efforts with Slayden, Schnabel, Avista, and various stakeholder groups and subconsultants,” she says. “This includes progress meetings with the integrated team, reporting to Avista, design review workshops, and being available to support any other communications Avista may need.”

Truex adds that Hill’s pre-construction role adds value to the project in several ways. “We operate as an team, using the CM/GC method,” she explains.

McCord echoes Truex. “Having a Program Management team that understands CM/GC as well as the specifics and the constraints of the project is key to realizing the benefits of the method while minimizing the risks,” he explains. “Avista is a smart owner who knows what they want out of this project, and along with Schnabel and Slayden we all expect the new dam to be an example of alterative delivery done right.”