The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By LEE REVIS
Editor, Valdez Star 

New harbor project evolves as work continues during short season

Stakeholder work session gives a snapshot of current plans and new ideas

 

Valdez Star photo

The Ports and Harbor commission held a joint work session with the Valdez City Council, city staff and contractors Monday night to give an update on new boat harbor construction.

Stakeholders held a work session Monday night to take a look at the financial health of the new harbor project.

In one of his last acts in public office Monday night, Mayor Larry Weaver presided over a joint work-session before the regular council meeting between the city council, the ports and harbor commission, city staff and contractors.

What became clear is that many aspects of the project - and what the final product will look like - are still unclear. The numerous changes in plans are mainly driven by the fact that a number of engineering problems have appeared as new geological data presents unforeseen challenges.

The new harbor - which will have 136 dedicated slips plus temporary and transient slips according to Ron Rozak, construction manager for Arcadis, U.S. Inc, the contractor overseeing the project for the City of Valdez.

The project, which has been in the works for over ten years but only saw shovels hitting the dirt last spring, is on schedule according to Jason Miles, the city's director of capital facilities.

"We are essentially flying through the Corp of Engineers work," Miles said during the meeting.

The project is a joint effort between the City of Valdez and the Army Corp of Engineers.

The Corp's work on the project is not required to be finished until the fall season of 2017 but could end this year if the current pace of work is allowed to continue unabated.

This could potentially allow the installation of floats to as early as next spring according to Miles.

Currently, sidewalk installation along S. Harbor Dr. is underway.

"Dredging work in breakwater construction by Western Marine (WM) continues," Miles said while reading from the meeting's agenda.

Harris Sand & Gravel is also continuing to stockpile filter rock from Sea Otter for breakwater construction, and abutment work for the proposed gangways.

While the work continues, Miles said the project's contingency budget is rapidly shrinking.

The original contingency for the city's portion of the cost of construction - $7.9 million - is rapidly being allocated by change orders and projected contingency consumption of the budget.

New geological data requiring workarounds, as well as government agencies - such as Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game and others - asking for a different scope of work, is eating into the contingency budget.

Some of the cost overruns will be recouped as some of the agencies will provide grants to cover the costs of the project changes, but those funds will generally not be available until after the project is complete.

Source: City of Valdez

A budget breakdown of the new harbor project.

Miles said it would be wise for the city's elected officials - who hold the purse strings for the project - to look at ways to cut costs on the land portions of the project so that the underwater work can be completed.

Land-based infrastructure can be completed while the actual water portion of the facility is put to use.

"We're not looking for decisions tonight," Miles said. "This is just a heads up."

City manager Dennis Ragsdale said he did not want the public to get the impression that the project will get finished with the current budget or that cost overruns and change orders have been made due to design flaws, when actual geological features found underwater that were previously unknown have been the major drivers in redesign costs.

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