After two years of contract award battles, major construction will start this fall on the Permanent Canal Closures and Pumps project in New Orleans. The $700-million design-build project for the US Army Corps of Engineers is the last of the major pump stations to be rebuilt in the city.

Finally awarded the project is PCCP Constructors, a joint venture comprised of Kiewit, M.R. Pittman and Traylor Bros., along with a design team at Stantec.

Jay Proskovec, public affairs manager for PCCP Constructors, explained that after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, interim structures were placed at three outfall canals: 17th Street, Orleans Avenue and London Avenue in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes. These interim structures were put in place to keep any future storm surges from getting into those canals and the city, “but those were built in a hurry, they were built on a fast track, and weren’t meant to be permanent,” Proskovec says. “Those interim structures have almost reached their expected life, so we’re building permanent pump stations to replace them. Of course the interim structures will remain open until our project is complete, and then the interim will be decommissioned.”

A total of three stations will be built, one at each outfall canal. Proskovec notes “the 17th St. station is bigger than the other two, and when fully operational, all three of the pump stations combined will pump over 24,000 cu-ft per second. That’s enough to fill an Olympic size swimming pool in 3.5 seconds, or we’ve estimated to fill the Superdome in 86 minutes. The 17th St. station we anticipate will be able to fill an Olympic size swimming pool in 7.06 seconds, London Ave. in 9.8 seconds and Orleans Ave. in 32.7 seconds.”

The project team will face some logistics challenges when removing dredging from the site, and is trying to determine where they will be able to haul materials to when removed, Proskovec explains. While there will be some barge access through the 17th St. location, the other two sites have a bridge that crosses over the canal, limiting the project team’s ability to access the site by barge.

“We’re also trying to keep the footprint as small as possible,” Proskovec explains. “Instead of using a large number of smaller pumps, they chose to use a smaller number of larger pumps so that they could keep the footprint of the buildings themselves much smaller. So there will be less impact on local residents. That’s also a big challenge for us is because all three of these sites are in residential areas, so there’s going to be a tremendous impact on the people who live there for the next three years.”

An additional challenge will be the compressed 44-month completion schedule. “So there’s a lot of scheduling challenges as far as making sure we can stay on our schedule and schedule the work so that it happens in a linear fashion,” he adds.

According to Proskovec, production pile at all three sites will start between October and December 2013.

“We’ll open a new bypass gate on 17th St. in April 2014, and the other two will follow in October and December of that year,” he says. “We’ll dewater Gulf Station Cofferdam in December 2014 and we’re going to get a rough set of the first pump between February and May 2015, and the first pump test start will be between September 2015 and January 2016.”

The reason for the accelerated schedule is the interim structures are quickly approaching their life expectancy. But the USACE is performing regular maintenance both the Corp and construction team believe that those structures will operate sufficiently through any storms that come up during the construction process, Proskovec says.

During construction, the JV team anticipates pouring about 70,000 cu-yds of concrete and dredging 200,000 cu-yds of excavation.
The project itself has been in the works since 2005, when the interim structures were put in place, Proskovec explains. The original contract was awarded around 2010, but several protest and rebidding processes pushed the project back.

“The USACE went ahead with awarding it to PCCP Constructors in April 2012, and we had a notice to proceed in May,” Proskovec says.