The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking 100 million cu yd of special levee clay to bring New Orleans- area hurricane protection up to 100-year levels. By late summer, the Corps plans to begin awarding contracts for delivery and stockpiling.

“The actual quantity we need is 60 million cu yd, but you have to account for waste, spoil and compaction,” says Karen Durham-Aguilera, director of Task Force Hope, the Corps initiative improving the protection system.

The Corps has issued a request for qualifications and already has 64 respondents, says Lt. Col. Murray Starkel, deputy commander of Corps’ New Orleans District. It has identified sources contractors may use if they choose, although they also are free to find others that meet specifications.

Contract awards will be made through a reverse-bid auction. A draft solicitation will be ready by the end of March. Contractors that meet the technical and environmental qualifications will be short-listed and allowed to participate in the auction, says Col. Jeffrey Bedey, commander of the Hurricane Protection Office, which is overseeing the work.

The Corps hopes to award supply contracts to deliver and stockpile the material at specific project locations where “productivity will be limited by how fast the clay can get there,” Bedey says. The bids will cover excavation, delivery to stockpiles and capping. “They will have to cap it because they won’t be using it immediately,” Bedey says.

The first three stock sites identified have about 5 million cu yd each, Bedey says. They follow two levee reaches along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and one in eastern New Orleans. Rather than creating huge dump sites, the Corps will be “pre-positioning material within existing levee rights-of-way,” says Maj. Nicholas Nazarko, project manager.

Bedey says the movement of so much material is likely to stimulate creative techniques. “They may use barge and truck to get it there, but how they off-load and stockpile it is likely going to be very innovative,” he says.