Companies came out in force March 24 to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers briefing in New Orleans to pick up details—and size up the competition—on a planned $800-million, design-build contract for permanent closures and pumps at the city’s three outfall canals to better control potential hurricane flooding damage.

Image: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The Corps is allowing flexibility for design-build contractors to propose their own pump configuration.

About 100 people representing dozens of contracting firms attended the Corps briefing, but few questions were asked as the companies appeared to want to hold any competitive advantages close to the vest.

The pump station is part of a $14.3-billion program to elevate the city’s storm damage protections to withstand a 100-year-level event. “Just about every one is interested in this,” said one contractor, who is working on another large hurricane system project in New Orleans and spoke off-the-record.

The contract’s technical details were revealed last fall, but an initial request for proposals (RFP) with contractual information is set for release next month. The Corps says it plans to issue a final RFP in September, make a contract award by June 2011 and complete the project in late 2014.

At least a dozen large companies have expressed interest and are likely sizing up potential partners, based on skills, equipment availability and bonding capacity, said Daniel Bradley, pump station project manager and branch chief of the Corps Hurricane Protection Office. “We wanted to make sure design-builders understand what we want built, and to get public input on the project,” he added.

The briefings attracted a who’s who of large contractors and design-builders, including managers from Alberici Constructors, Inc., St. Louis; The Shaw Group, New Orleans; Kiewit Corp., Omaha, Bechtel National Inc., San Francisco; Weston Solutions Inc., West Chester, Pa.; Parsons Corp., Pasadena, Calif.; TetraTech; Pasadena; INCA, Bellevue, Wash.; Xcelsi Group LLC, Dayton, Ohio; Archer Western Contractors Ltd., Atlanta; Skanska USA, Parsippany, N.J.;  Cajun Constructors Inc., Baton Rouge, La.; and Granite Construction Inc., Watsonville, Calif.

The three closure and pump facilities at the Orleans, London and 17th Street outfall canals were originally lumped in one package because the Corps thought that would result in cost savings and construction efficiencies, said Col. Robert Sinkler, commander of the Hurricane Protection Office. “Now we think it will actually mean fewer bidders because the contract is so large, and we have all these other big projects out there,” he added.

Generally, each of the closure structures is restricted by a maximum footprint, height and pump capacity. The capacities will be: 12,500 cu ft per second at the 17th Street facility, 2,700 cfs at Orleans and 9,000 cfs at London. The design-build contractor has flexibility as to the type, number and configuration of pumps.

 “As long as they can move the water and have sufficient water heads, as long as it works, they can use whatever they want,” Bradley said.

The Corps plans to issue a contractor short list by June.

 “Once we get a short list of three to five firms, they’ll get the latest revision of that RFP that is out now,” Bradley said. “Then we’re going to allow 30 days for each short-listed contractor to come in for a one-on-one. Based on their comments, we can incorporate their views and expressed concerns about constructability, environmental, aesthetics, etc.” 

Partnering arrangements were unclear last week, but joint ventures on other New Orleans projects are already plenty and varied, with significant capacity in the area. Shaw is expected to finish in May the main wall of the $1.3-billion Lake Borgne Inner Harbor Navigation Canal storm surge barrier, with Chicago-based Traylor Bros. Co., Massman Construction Co., Kansas City and Weeks Marine, Cranford, N.J., joint ventured as a sub.

That is a few months earlier than its fall completion date, said Sinkler.

Kiewit and Traylor are teamed on the $854.8-million Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Closure Complex surge barrier, while Massman, Kiewit, and Traylor are teamed up for various parts of the $1.2-billion Huey P. Long Bridge widening. Flatiron Constructors Inc., Longmont, Colo. and Parsons Transportation Group Inc., Washington, D.C. joined with Granite for the $408.5-million John James Audubon Bridge project. Alberici and Archer Western are teamed on a roughly $300-million deep soil mixing project for the Corps.

The current RFP for the pump station project, IER 5, is available at