Construction Recovery Picks Up

Total construction starts in April rose 3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $533.7 billion, according to McGraw Hill Construction Dodge. The April numbers were lifted by a 14%rise in non-residential work and a 4% hike in home building, which were both muted by a 14% decline in non-building work. On a year-to-date basis, total construction through the first four months of 2014 shows no gain over last year's level (see chart).

Winners of Rebuild By Design Competition Announced

On June 2, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan named six winners of a competition held to seek out approaches to bolster the defenses of areas most vulnerable to extreme weather events. Among the winners is the BIG U project. The landscape architecture scheme calls for a system of earth berms around Manhattan to protect 10 miles of low-lying areas against flood waters. BIG U will double, in places, as public green space. Federal funds will pay for the $335-million project, part of a total of $920 million for the HUD program. BIG U's first phase is an earth berm along the East River Park in lower Manhattan—hit hard by Superstorm Sandy's surge.

Virginia Utility Gets Approval For $3.8-billion LNG Facility

Richmond, Va.-based Dominion has received approval from the Maryland Public Service Commission to construct two 65-MW steam turbine generators for electric power at its Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in Lusby, Md. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the environmental impact statement for Dominion's plan to add LNG export capability to the plant. The steam for the new turbines will be produced by waste heat from two combustion turbines powering compressors for the LNG plant, which will be built by IHI E&C International Corp. and Kiewit Corp. The LNG facility will cost between $3.4 billion and $3.8 billion. Final FERC approval is expected by late summer, and completion in late 2017.

Two Firms Cited For Willful Violations in Texas A&M Fatality

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on May 29 fined two Texas contractors a total of nearly $131,000 in the death of a skid-steer loader operator last December on the $450-million expansion of Kyle Field stadium at Texas A&M University. Lindamood Demoliton Inc., employer of Angel Garcia, who died in a 70-ft fall at the site, was cited for a willful violation in the accident for exceeding the loader's operating capacity. Also fined and cited with a willful violation was Texas Cutting and Coring for exposing workers to the hazard of being struck by the loader and falling concrete, OSHA said. The agency added that Lindamood would be placed in its "severe violator" enforcement program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to insure the firm is complying with its safety rules. The companies, which could not be reached, have 15 days to comply or contest the citations. The project is set for completion in 2015.

Quebec Begins Commissioning Of First of Four Hydro Plants

Commissioning is underway for the first generating station at the Hydro-Quebec Romaine complex, a $6.5-billion hydropower project in northern Quebec that will demonstrate the province's commitment to renewable energy. The complex comprises four generating stations with rockfill dams on the Romaine River that will generate a total of 1,550 MW. Commissioning for the site's second generating station is set for 2016, the third in 2017 and the last in 2020.