Assembly delays OK for CH2M Hill Anchorage port contract


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The Anchorage Assembly for a second time delayed approving engineering firm CH2M Hill for another role in the Port of Anchorage saga at its regular Feb. 11 meeting.

CH2M Hill’s status as a hopeful port construction project manager first appeared on the Assembly’s Jan. 14 agenda and was moved to the Feb. 11 meeting, where it was pushed back again to Feb. 25.

Mayor Dan Sullivan announced Jan. 2 that the firm had been chosen to manage future construction at the port under an initial five-year, $30 million contract. Extensions to the agreement could take it to nine years and $54 million.

Assembly members questioned whether a pending lawsuit against CH2M Hill over previous consulting work done at the port by VECO Alaska, now owned by CH2M Hill, could lead to a conflict of interest within the company.

VECO recommended the Open Cell Sheet Pile dock design first tried at the port expansion project. PND Engineers, which developed the patented sheet pile system, was sued by the municipality alongside VECO over the suitability of their plan for the project. The engineering firm has blamed faulty installation of the sheet pile for delays and cost overruns.

A revamped and larger Port of Anchorage was supposed to be done in 2013 when the project began more than 10 years ago. Sullivan has pegged 2020 as a new goal for project completion.

The municipality’s seven-member Bidding Review Board met Jan. 23 per an Assembly recommendation and unanimously found no conflict of interest in CH2M Hill’s roles in the project. The firm also issued the suitability and concept reports criticizing PND’s design that are the basis for the lawsuit, which also includes Integrated Concepts and Research Corp., the former project manager under oversight of the U.S. Maritime Administration, or MARAD.

At a Feb. 7 special meeting several Assembly members questioned the length of the contract and if it could tie the municipality to CH2M Hill even if troubles similar to those that occurred when MARAD oversaw the project. MARAD’s oversight has since been transferred to the Municipality.

At the Feb. 7 meeting, CH2M Hill leadership said the company was prepared to move its project manager that oversaw the nearly $600 million Gulfport, Miss., port reconstruction and expansion after Hurricane Katrina to Anchorage to lead this project.

If CH2M Hill is not approved, municipal manager George Vakalis said the three to six month bid process for a management team would begin again and possibly further delay the project.

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