CH2M Hill Selected to Rescue Anchorage Port Project

The Engineering firm CH2M Hill has been selected to manage the troubled Port of Anchorage project. The project was shutdown after construction problems a few years ago and remains tied up in lawsuits. but today officials said it could be on track again this year.

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Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA - Anchorage.
Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

The role of the project manager will be to oversee the day-to-day operations of the construction project moving forward, setting timelines and benchmarks and selecting and supervising the work of subcontractors. CH2M Hill will not be involved in designing or building the port.

On the top floor of city Hall, Mayor Dan Sullivan said over the past few years his administration has been working to do several things:

“Determine what went wrong with construction; who’s responsible for what went wrong; what is the best path forward, including a review of the design parameters,” Sullivan said. “And then going forward putting together a team to make sure that as this project proceeds into the future that we’ve got the right team on board.”

The right team, Mayor Sullivan said is from CH2M Hill, a Colorado-based engineering firm with offices in Anchorage. The port project was started back in 2003 under Mayor George Wuersch and Port Director Bill Sheffield. The Design was approved in 2006 Under Mayor Mark Begich.

The Sullivan administration has led the push to get the Municipality reimbursed for it’s losses.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration managed the previous project. CH2M Hill released a report earlier this year saying the previous project had failed because of a patented ‘open cell sheet pile’ design that crumpled or separated during construction. CH2M Hill purchased the now defunct Veco Corporation, which was involved in the work that had the problems and is now party to a lawsuit by city. But Mayor Sullivan says that won’t be a problem.

“We think we can compartmentalize that lawsuit,” Sullivan said. “Again it goes back to Veco before they were acquired by CH2M Hill. So we’re confident that we’ll be able to keep the lawsuit separate from any progress going forward on the construction and design.”

Sullivan says the next steps will be selecting a new design, and contractors to build it. CH2M Hill was selected Sullivan says, for their expertise and experience in building ports in areas with seismic activity.

Stacey Jones, a vice president with CH2M Hill who will lead the team says unlike the Maritime Administration, which was criticized for managing the project from afar, CH2M Hill will work closely with the Port of Anchorage, setting up and Anchorage office right in the Port to develop the new project.

“I believe one of the reasons that CH2M Hill was selected is because of extensive experience in managing projects,” Jones said. “We are ranked number one in the U.S. for project management as well as environmental management. We have the skills and the tools and the expertise to do this.”

She added that the previous ‘open cell sheet pile’ design will not be used again but did not specify what design her firm favors. The contract with CH2M Hill is for 30 million dollars over five years with the option for two extensions at 12 more million dollars each.

Design and and engineering work is anticipated to take 18-months to two years with construction likely beginning again in 2016. The selection of CH2M Hill will go before the Anchorage Assembly for approval at it’s Jan. 14tmeeting.

The municipality has been investigating problems with the port project since they arose 2009. They’ve spent upwards of 300 million public dollars on the project so far and are requesting 100 million more from the legislature this year.

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Daysha Eaton, KMXT - Kodiak
Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.