Questions about the construction, oversite and defective work at Anchorage's port expansion continue to pile up.

Questions about the Port of Anchorage Expansion Project

Construction Problems

From the beginning, engineers have understood the massive challenges posed by Cook Inlet tidal action.The news timeline in this site begins with a 1998 news article about tides damaging work to a proposed fuel pipeline over the flats.After it was reported that the new Port Director and former Alaska Governor, Bill Sheffield, "fell in love" with the design, the design of the expansion shifted from a pile design to an "open cell" design.Millions was spent to justify a design many said wasn't as seismically sound.Many asked why we were spending millions in a sole source contract for a patented product that hadn't been proven to withstand an earthquake on the magnitude of the '64 quake.......when pilingshad survived it.

In fact, the "open cell" design, touted as cheaper, has cost tens of millions more that we were originally told.Much of the recent construction work has been undone - pulled out of the floor of Cook Inlet.The damaged steel sheets have been pulled up and now need to be replaced. In September 2005, the Municipality's Geotechnical Advisory Committee, made up of engineers, recommended an outside, independent review of the project, that to date, has not been done.

Severe silting at the north berth of the dock due to current-altering construction has created even more cost.Spot dredging at the dock and the resulting need for crews to work TOTE ships at odd hours, creating considerable overtime costs have all increased the cost to shippers.We have been told that, to help out the shippers, tariffs have been reduced to offset costs.Is this a practice MOA budget folks know about?Is this reduction in fees to city coffers something property taxpayers should worry about?Who is really paying here?

Bent and warped cells and sheet metal pilings removed from the inlet and stacked on the port October 1998
Anchorage Daily News reports 30 ft. tides in Cook Inlet dislodge foam blocks used to suspend pipeline construction above mud flats. 'There's a little bit of a learning curve involved,' said project engineer Joe Nash.

December 1998
Anchorage Daily News reports U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will dredge a milelong near Fire Island in 1999 as part of the biggest dredging project ever in Cook Inlet. Project estimated cost, as much as $12.6 million, has doubled since 1995, and it's unclear whether there will be enough funds to dig a channel wide enough to keep erosion from clogging it in a year or two.

November 2002
Anchorage Daily News reports Wuerch and Sheffield appoint group of 10 geotechnical engineers to assess the underwater soils in Knik Arm. MOA comprehensive plan says the port will need to be expanded to accommodate growth at the facility, expected to double in the next 20 years. Concerns raised that open cell plan proposed and patented by Peratrovich, Nottingham & Drage Inc. Same design used at Point MacKenzie raised concerns by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which noted possible signs that the dock is shifting. The corps also said soil underlying the dock contains a weak layer that could cause the dock to collapse in an earthquake. PN&D officials disputed the claims about the integrity of the dock, which opened in 2001.

December 2003
Anchorage Daily News reports engineering report says underwater soils in Knik Arm may not support a proposed open-cell sheet-pile dock design as submitted by Anchorage-based Peratrovich, Nottingham & Drage. Report says PN&D's design 'does not appear feasible. Firm was hired after the port's top engineer, Richard Burg, lost his job last spring over differences in the direction that expansion plans should take. Burg said he could not support PN&D's expansion plan being pushed by the port director, former Gov. Bill Sheffield.

June 2003
$1 million Knik Arm seismic study undertaken to determine safest design for dock expansion - open-cell sheet-pile versus conventional pilings.

August 2003
Anchorage Daily News reports that sea floor tests for dock expansion are nearly complete  $1.25 million paid by MARAD. Report should be finished in two months.

December 2003
Anchorage Daily News reports that underwater soil study in Knik Arm at the Port of Anchorage has found that soils are strong enough to support the planned deep-draft dock.

September 2005
Anchorage Daily News reports Anchorage Geotechnical Advisory Commission says Port of Anchorage officials and consultants should explain why they're not designing a major expansion project to more stringent earthquake standard. Commission also recommends project design be reviewed by an independent panel of experts,
"Given the importance of the port to statewide commerce, life-safety in the event of a natural disaster and its designation as a strategic port, the commission believes that it should be considered an 'essential facility,' " the commission said in a letter to port director Bill Sheffield.

May 2010
Anchorage Daily News reports growing shoal near port narrowing navigation channel. Anchorage port officials are worried about the shoal, too. The inlet's dramatic tidal fluctuations require precise timing for cargo deliveries. Sometimes, the pilots said, winter ice, winds and swirling currents can make turning a big ship into the port a harrowing experience. Pilots and other mariners have been discussing the shoal with Anchorage port officials for almost two years now but they are having a tough time getting anything done about it. Port of Anchorage Director Bill Sheffield tried but failed this year to get a $1 million appropriation put into the $3 billion capital budget that the Legislature approved in mid-April. The pilot association, TOTE and a second cargo shipper, Horizon Lines, have sent letters to the Corps of Engineers asking it to do something. Sheffield went to Mat-Su legislators saying he thought it would easier for the Mat-Su lawmakers to get the money because Anchorage "always has so many projects in the budget."

His idea backfired. Mat-Su Borough officials disagree that their dock is to blame and they argue that the shoal is not a serious obstacle for ships. In interviews, Mat-Su officials said that if it's true that the shoal is growing, it's probably because the Corps dumps the millions of cubic yards of sediment that it dredges at the Anchorage port and puts into the deep waters of the shipping lane.

January 2011
Anchorage Daily News Editorial asks of the port project: What's going on here? And who's in charge? The port's expansion is beset with problems, and it's not clear who's in charge or what the solutions are. Much of the recent construction work on the project has been to undo what's been done to fix it. Warped, bent and buckled steel sheets have had to be pulled up and replaced. One-third of the designed project has been done, but much of it has to be redone.

January 2011
Anchorage Daily News reports port project stalled under cloud of construction troubles and ballooning costs.Some engineers are questioning whether the new dock can even be built as designed. Much of the work done in 2010 involved dismantling construction from just a year earlier. Numerous sheets of steel that were planted in Cook Inlet as part of the dock expansion have been ripped up and now lie stacked in twisted and warped piles at the port.A city advisory commission is urging an independent review of "all aspects of the design, including the ... constructability." Port of Anchorage: A billion-dollar mess?

January 2011
Alaska Journal of Commerce reports Port Director Sheffield acknowledges difficulties with the now $1 billion port expansion but says constructions managers are getting a handle on the problems. Sheffield points to lack of oversight and shabby work as part of the problem as well as port officials needing more of a role in management and we need some protection, such as some kind of performance bond for contractors.

February 2011
Anchorage Daily News reports Port Director Sheffield asks Legislature for $320 million for massive dock replacement project, but the initial signs are that it won't get nearly that much money.Numerous U-shaped steel cells installed then ended up bent, mangled or otherwise damaged and must be replaced. Most of the 2010 construction season was spent dealing with the problem. The project is now hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and a decade behind a plan set in 2005.

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