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Day One: WEDA Pacific Chapter Conference Focused on State of the Industry and Fiscal 2017 Projects

The roundtable had plenty to discuss with attendees.

The roundtable had plenty to discuss with attendees.

L-R: Jeff McKee, Barry Holliday, Walter Jellison and Jim Haussner enjoying the afterhours ice breaker.

The Western Dredging Association (WEDA) Pacific Chapter 2016 Conference welcomed a packed house of industry project managers, port and harbor staff, regulators, contractors and environmental consultants in San Diego. The three-day conference ran from October 19 to 21 and about 114 industry professionals attended.

The first session of the conference was a two-hour roundtable discussion led by Barry Holliday, Dredging Contractors of America, with panelists including Jeff McKee, chief, Navigation Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Jim Haussener, executive director, California Marine Affairs & Navigation Conference; Sheryl Carrubba, Corps Northwest Division Navigation Project Manager; and Frederick Paup from Manson Construction Company. The panel discussion focused on dredging project management concerns. 

Holliday started the session with a discussion about the Corps project management role and responsibilities, stressing the importance of early planning and dialog with port and harbor staff and contractors. Early communication with environmental agencies and a more interactive partnering approach by the Corps was also recommended. Jeff McKee emphasized the importance of adequate lead time in every project, stating that “getting agencies involved as much as two years in advance will help keep the process moving smoothly.”

One of the biggest problems, of course, re-mains the lack of funding with only $16 billion of the total $32 billion in 2016 Federal Harbor Maintenance Tax funding actually available for navigation programs. The group agreed that Corps project managers could be doing a better job communicating the economic benefits of in-creasing harbor depth to higher-up administrators and legislators to justify more funding. Certain cost saving measures could also help improve the efficient allocation of funds. Better use of historical records, and timely project surveys and testing prior to bid could also reduce contractor costs, thereby increasing competition and attracting potential new contractors.

The Corps has been paying more attention to ‘regional’ planning in order to coordinate multiple projects and reduce standby days and contractor charges for downtime. Increasing flexibility in regional contracts would reduce nonproductive costs in the event of unforeseen circumstances, and allow the repositioning of contractors from one project to another so they can fill potential underruns of materials, and effectively reduce the federal governments ‘cost risk’ in each project. 

Concerns about environmental challenges were also voiced by the group with Jim Haussener commenting that the California State EPA’s opposition to ocean disposal sites has increased costs, reduced project scopes, and diminished the impact of current funding levels. Barry Holliday stated, “Environmental challenges are part of every dredging project, and Corps project managers could help with this by being more proactive with environmental regulators to re-evaluate environmental impacts and possibly expand project windows.”

“The science is critical, but the process should be more transparent, and the Corps could help influence that,” said Carrubba, Corps navigation program manager, Northwestern Division. 

Finally, the question was raised as to whether there is enough dredging equipment in the Pacific region. Frederick Paup from Manson Construction answered, “The equipment on the West Coast is underutilized due to seasonality. But in other areas of the U.S., there are some shortages of equipment.” 

Holliday added, “The market is growing now, but reliability of funding is still a question. So it is a risk for contractors to add or upgrade capacity.”

FISCAL 2017 PROJECTS

After a brief break, the first day session continued with detailed presentations by Corps project managers covering the multitude of maintenance dredging projects planned for fiscal year 2017 in the various Pacific Corps Districts.

Michael Tencza, Corps Alaska District operations project manager did a presentation covering eight coastal dredging projects estimated to remove more than 2.75 million cubic yards of material over the next two years. The largest of the projects involves a four-year program already underway, removing more than 1.1 million cubic yards per year from Anchorage Harbor by hop-per and mechanical dredge with an option to dredge the Cook Inlet Navigation Channel also. Manson Construction has already contracted for the first half of this project through 2017, and the second half will go to bid the last quarter of 2017. Other projects slated for 2017 and beyond include Dillingham Harbor, Homer & Ninilchik Harbors, Thomas Basin, Valdez, and Nome Harbors. Placement sites will range from in-water to upland and beach disposal, with the dredging season typically running from April to December.

The Honolulu District has three projects on the planning table, all involving clamshell removal. The Honolulu Harbor, Kikiaola Harbor, and Nawiliwili Harbor dredges are relatively small projects ranging from 13,000 cubic yards to 99,000 cubic yards with both ocean and upland disposal anticipated.

The Seattle District has seven dredging projects slated for fiscal 2017 for the removal of more than 3.4 million cubic yards of material. Elizabeth Chien, Corps project manager, provided details on the extensive project at Gray’s Harbor where a combination of government hopper and clamshell equipment will be utilized to clear more than 2.4 million cubic yards from the harbor en-trance and inner basins with in-water disposal. Other projects include hydraulic and clamshell maintenance dredging of Everett Harbor, Quillayute and Seattle Harbor.

Eight projects are in various stages of implementation in the Portland District involving river, bay and coastal locations. John Hayes, Corps project manager, stated that the Corps dredge Essayons is expected to remove more than 3.8 million cubic yards from the mouth and upstream locations of the Columbia River during late 2017 and early 2018. The hopper dredge Yaquina will also be very busy in the region, removing 1.5 million cubic yards from sites on the Columbia and Rogue Rivers, and Oregon coastal locations. Other work sites involving clamshell and hydraulic equipment, will include the Port of Portland, Port Oxford, Columbia River Side Channel, and Coos Bay encompassing more than 2.7 million cubic yards. West coast hopper dredge contracts are also being developed for additional removal and disposal of 3.8 million cubic yards of mate-rial in the Columbia River and Coos Bay areas for 2017/2018.  

Al Paniccia, Corps Project Manager, presented information on activity in the San Francisco District. Twelve dredging projects are planned in this district for fiscal 2017 anticipating removal of more than 3.5 million cubic yards from Northern California locations during the seasonal dredging window of June through November. The hopper dredge Essayons will be engaged at three projects, the SF Main Ship Channel, Richmond Outer Harbor, and the Pinole Shoal, involving the removal and in-water disposal of 750,000 cubic yards of material. Another west coast hopper dredge project at the Humboldt Bar for the removal of 750,000 cubic yards will go to bid in May and June 2017.

The day’s last presentation was given by Mo Chang, WEDA Pacific Chapter president, and chief, Corps Navigation Section, covering the Los Angeles District. Eight dredging projects are planned for the Southern California region from Morro Bay to Oceanside, encompassing 3.4 mil-lion cubic yards of material removal. The hop-per dredge Yaquina is slated to complete maintenance dredging of 420,000 cubic yards from Morro Bay in October 2017, after other clamshell and pipeline dredging has been completed. Man-son Construction is under contract for pipeline dredging to remove 1.5 million cubic yards in the Channel Islands Harbor and 400,000 cubic yards in Ventura Harbor over two project periods from October to March in 2017 and 2018, and Marina Del Rey has also contracted for clamshell dredging of 400,000 cubic yards in a similar two-year program. Other projects in the planning and bid stages for 2017 are Oceanside Harbor, 180,000 cubic yards; Santa Barbara Harbor, 250,000 cubic yards; and Port Hueneme, 250,000 cubic yards. 

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