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City officials have hired a San Ramon firm to study if an architectural design was the cause of a section of river bank to collapse at the lower terrace of the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park.

The City Council voted July 13 to spend up to $9,300 with ENGEO, Inc., to see if the 2005 work of an architect was why the slope collapsed in October 2007. City Engineer Glenn Gebhardit, now director of the Development Services Department for the city of Ceres, said the collapse was approximately 30 foot wide by 100 feet long.

Fixing the damaged Tuolumne River bank could cost the city between $150,000 to $200,000, said Gebhardt. If the designs were faulty, the city may sue the architect for the cost of repairs.

ENGEO, which has a Ripon office, is a recognized expert in geotechnical slope stability whose expertise could set the stage for a lawsuit against the firm of Royston, Hanamoto, Alley and Abbey.

The park on Hatch Road east of Mitchell Road has two different plains - the upper terrace that bears athletic fields and the lower terrace which is being restored to its natural state of a wild river setting. The city designed the lower terrace to have a lagoon that is filled by water coming from a pond at the upper terrace. The lagoon was designed to openly drain into the river but the outfall cut through the bank and eroded it, said Gebhardt.

"The river bank fluffed into the river and that's where the sensitivity is," said Gebhardt, "because the habitat is very sensitive at the river's edge."

The city has redesigned the new outfall through a traditional pipe outfall. The work will also include strengthening the side of the river to be able to withstand the natural forces of the river at higher flows. The project will include installing large rocks or boulders.

The project will be put out to bid in late summer.