Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | April 12, 2021

Delta Tunnel: Geologist takes leadership of engineering and design

In March 2021, Kathryn Mallon resigned as Executive Director of the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA.) The resignation came after labor negotiations with Metropolitan Water District’s representatives on the DCA Board. The official story is that Mallon decided to seek other opportunities after finishing the initial engineering and design work for the project. However, one of the initial engineering designs for the project is not yet finished.

In February 2021 Mallon reported submitting the final Engineering Product Reports for the Central and Eastern Corridor options to the Department of Water Resources. Deliverables included “engineering drawings, GIS mapbooks, and all associated technical memoranda.” In March 2021, Mallon reported submitting the Draft Engineering Product Report for the Bethany Reservoir Alternative to DWR. The final Engineering Product Report for the Bethany Reservoir Alternative was scheduled to be finished at the end of April 2021, but it is unclear if that schedule will be met after the change in leadership.

Graham Bradner is taking over from Mallon as the new Interim DCA Executive Director. Bradner has been working for the project as a geologist under contract from GEI consultants. Bradner is a good choice for Interim ED, both to lead the geotechnical explorations this Spring and to lead the DCA’s discussions with the US Army Corps of Engineers about the Section 408 permit for modifying the levees for the two intakes in the North Delta. These are Bradner’s qualifications, from the DCA’s August 2020 Leadership Spotlight:

Levee Evaluation, Design, and Construction

  • Embankment Dam & Spillway Assessments
  • Seepage/Slope Stability Analyses
  • Flood Planning Studies
  • Groundwater Studies
  • Production Well Design and Construction

Bradner’s main experience is with levees, according to the same document:

  • Flood Planning and Evaluations
  • Design and Construction

Bradner was also involved in DWR’s Urban and Non-Urban Levee Evaluations Program, the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan & Update, and the Small Communities Flood Risk Reduction Program.

However, Bradner does not have Mallon’s experience with leading huge water infrastructure and tunnel projects. Bradner’s Executive Director’s report for the April 2021 Board Meeting is much shorter and less comprehensive than Mallon’s have been. The brief report could indicate getting up to speed on the engineering management and reporting software.

Bradner is facing significant challenges with reduced funding for the DCA’s engineering work. He is proposing a budget of $21.5 million for FY 2021-22, a 20% reduction over the $27 million in the DCA’s current FY 2020-21 budget, and a 37% reduction over the original FY 2020-21 budget.


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