The removal of the Elwha River Dam just west of Port Angeles has been talked about for years. The purpose is to restore Salmon habitat, but man’s desire to control the environment never seems to achieve any significant measure of success.
It would be great if it did restore fish and wildlife, or substantially improve it, but I can’t think of any examples of anything man has really accomplished on such a grand scale. I grew up in Alaska, and the Fish & Wildlife were always trying to balance the wolf vs. the moose population. One year the F&W Service would announce there were too many wolves, so they would issue an edict that the wolf bounty would increase. The next year they would issue an edict that there were not enough wolves but too many moose, and killing wolves would be prohibited, and a 3,000 page report would announce that you could shoot bull and cow moose. [I almost typed meese, but the plural of moose is actually moose.]
I took the above photo of the lower Elwha River Dam, but the upper dam is slated for removal, too. Here’s an interesting dilemma when it comes to the removal of major dams or bridges or other projects in the 100’s of millions of dollars: the cost keeps going up dramatically as time marches on.
The Kitsap Sun reported today:
“The official cost of the Elwha Dam removal has more than doubled since 2001, reflecting add-on expenses of new water-treatment plants, mitigation projects and inflation not anticipated years ago. . . . The 2001 estimate of $135 million was updated to $308 million as the result of a comprehensive project review completed last year, according to a statement from Olympic National Park. It was the first such review in many years.”
Since government officials seem to have such a tremendous difficulty accurately figuring out how much to tax you and me for all these projects, I thought I might help them out a little. While I’m being sarcastic here and just poking a little fun at government bureaucrats about the removal of the Elwha dams, my mathematical rule could actually be accurate. [Insert laughter here.] So after 30 years of watching projects from Alaska to Washington and beyond, here is Marunde’s Rule of Large Government Save-The-People Project Cost Estimates [With a title like that, you might have thought I am a bureaucrat.]
- Take the original estimate and for the first round of “surprise” cost increases, just double it (due to “cost overruns, unexpected inflation,” and so on);
- Take the new estimate (now double the original), and with another “surprise” add 30% to the lastest estimate (due to additional complex issues that were not originally addressed);
- And for the finale, when the project is finally given the go ahead, tack on another 15% (there will be a lengthy list of items none of us can comprehend justifying this increase).
- For those of you who wonder about the time period over which these simple rules apply, the last rule is that time does not matter. These rules apply over any period of time for any government involvement in large projects. There is an exception to this last rule. If 10 years pass since the original estimate, and the project has not yet been started, multiply the original estimate by 10 to arrive at the final figure.
Apply these rules for all original estimates, and you can figure out how much the project will really cost in the end, which might . . . just might have an impact on your decision to vote for or against a project in the beginning. Based on my formula, the final cost of the Elwha River Dam removal will be $408.65 million. Time will tell. It always does.
Last Updated on August 26, 2010 by Chuck Marunde