Fix the pumps

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy fiscal year 2007! I'm sure all of you are still getting over your hangovers from the big parties Saturday night.

Yes, we are now in the first quarter of FY2007. Why is this important? Because it marks yet another batch of deadlines which the Corps has again missed. But first, let me bring some good news.

I visited a number of pumping stations over the weekend to check on the status of work happening there. I happy to report that Crown Roofing Service's roofing work at station 11, station 13, and station 10 is proceeding expeditiously. I didn't get to station 6, but I'm sure work is going swimmingly there as well.

At station 11, where the roof is a simple peak (i.e. just two sides) they have insulation up on the entire east side of the roof and part of the west side. They have gone back with new plywood in some spots (perhaps the entire area covered by insulation). They are very close to starting to place the metal sheathing over the repaired areas. After that, the building will be ready for new gutters and downspouts. Note that all of the electrical equipment inside still has tarps (and in the case of one motor, a picnic canopy) over it. I imagine the Sewerage & Water Board will wait until the first big rainfall before removing them. I'd estimate about another week to two weeks before completion

At station 13, which is also a simple peaked roof, albeit much larger than station 11, the entire west side of the roof is done except for gutters and downspouts. They have also made a lot of progress on the east side, where they are now putting down sheathing. I'd give station 13 about another week, plus time for gutters and downspouts. Like station 11, the tarps (and the picnic umbrella!) are still in place.

At station 10, where the roof has four sides, they've got sheathing in place on the east and part of the north side. I can't see the south side from the levee, and I forgot to check the west side. I'd say they're probably about 1.5 weeks from completion there.

That's the good news. Here's the bad news.

1) None of the roofing work is happening on Sundays, but that might be moot if they finish this week.

2) There is no other new Corps-sponsored work happening at any of the other stations I visited. This includes:
Station 1
Station 4
Station 5
Station 10
Station 14
Station 16 (I refer to Corps-sponsored work at this station. I believe there is still a lot of S&WB-sponsored work happening on the electrical systems at this station)
Station 19
Station 20

That's all I could make it to in one afternoon. You can see the locations on this map.

I'm basing this on the fact that there is no new equipment, trucks, dumpsters or any evidence of new contractors on site at any of these stations (besides those of Crown Roofing at stations 11, 13, and 10).

Why am I bringing this up now? Back on August 16th and 17th, the Corps held a two day contractors-only conference to detail their plans for all the money flowing into the New Orleans District as a result of Katrina Supplemental #3 (became law 12/30/05) and Katrina Supplemental #4 (became law in June). #3 was supposed to cover all the immediate repairs, and is where one would find the Orleans Parish Pumping Station repair money (well, actually, the Corps was okayed to begin that work practically right after Katrina, but they never did).

There's still over $50 million in money from Supplemental #3 left unspent on pump station repairs across Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines Parishes. Much of that is devoted to repairs in Orleans Parish. On the second day of the conference, there was a PowerPoint presentation showing every contract that was to be issued by the new Hurricane Protection Office. You can find the presentation on the Corps' page here or you can find it here, where I've saved it in case it disappears.

Here is the relevant excerpt from the presentation (click to enlarge):

I've surrounded the Orleans Parish Pumping Station contracts (those with an "OPS" in the project code) in a red line. The important part is the column labeled "Expected Adverstisement (Fiscal Quarter)." I've rejiggered the table a little to make it more readable:

The fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. The fourth quarter of fiscal 2006 ran from from July 1, 2006 to September 30, 2006. The first contract, "Roofing Repairs," is partially underway, but with a scope that reduced from what the Corps indicated back in June. It was also not advertised. The motor rewinding contracts were awarded in May after an expedited advertising period, and OPS-03 is actually complete. OPS-02 is nearly complete.

However, that leaves five other contracts that were not advertised before the end of the fourth quarter of fiscal 2006. By "advertised," the Corps is referring to a solicitation appearing on their Contracts Department webpage. They were previously scheduled to be advertised in August.

Included in those contracts are repairs to bearings in at least three dozen pumps in 13 of the 23 stations all across the city. They also include the complete rewinding of four frequency changers (they change the power frequency from 60 cycle to 25 cycle for use by the older pumps in the system), and tons of other assorted building repairs ranging from replacement of storm doors to repair of downed fences.

(Note: actually, one little bit of the horizontal bearing contract was advertised August 30, with a response date of September 11, 2006. It has apparently been awarded to a firm named IPS of Louisiana. Since it appears that IPS of Louisiana is only a supplier (their name stands for "Industrial Product Supplier," according to their webpage), they will probably be subcontracting the installation work to another firm. This might be contract OPS-05, or it might only be a part of it. There are still other pump stations with horizontal bearings requiring replacement -specifically stations 4, 5, and 12 according to the June 22nd schedule of Corps pump station repairs - so it is unclear why the Corps stopped at stations 1, 6, and 19, though they may have been placed into OPS-06. It would have been clearer if they had met their own deadline!)

It's stunning, galling, and infuriating to think that all of this still has to be done over 13 months after the storm, especially when one considers the law that included the money was signed by the President 9 months ago. And what about contract OPS-09, which might not be advertised until the end of December? What gives?!?

3) But that's not where the bad news stops. I also stopped by two of the three outfall gate structures. With regards to the security concerns I wrote about in Part 1 of my special report, the Corps does not appear to be responding. The vehicular gate on the west side of the London Avenue gates was wide open. For your orientation, here's the location of that gate on a picture taken from the Corps' webpage:

Flow of the canal is from left to right. Incidentally, the pictures of the control house in Part 1 of the special report were taken in the west control structure, which is the white structure at the top just below the word "West."

So with the vehicular gate open, not only could anyone just walk up on to the structure, they could literally drive a truck through the holes in the security.

Needless to say, there was no security at 17th Street either. As I pulled up, a tourist couple were just walking away from the site. But the bigger disappointment is the Corps' blown deadline for the east side extra pumps. As you can see from this Corps page, they called for the following in pumping capacity at 17th Street on September 30:

4000 cfs
(East 6, East 2)
(Temporary Pumps)

Let me decode. The 4000 cfs is the expected capacity at the 17th St. canal gates including all the pumps. "East 6, East 2" refers to the original six pumps planned for the Orleans Parish (i.e. east) side of the canal site (which are installed, and are probably running), as well as the two extras purchased by Boh Brothers and also to be installed on the east side. They were supposed to be running on September 30. "Temporary pumps" is the unfortunate Corps lingo for the permanent pumps now at the gates. They just didn't want those pumps confused with the real permanent pumps coming down the line sometime in Two-thousand-mumble.

Well, the extra two east side pumps are installed, but they are definitely not pumping any water. For one thing, there's no piping joining them to the rest of the system. I don't even see that piping on the site (and it's easy to see, considering the security). For another, their engines aren't hooked up. So right now, they're just paperweights. That's about 450 cfs that is definitely not ready. I think they're at least two weeks away from getting those pumps running, and who knows whether they'll vibrate or not

It is also extremely unlikely they will get the four extra pumps (representing about another 900 to 1000 cfs, not 1200 like the Corps webpage says) promised for the west side of the canal running by October 30, which is their next deadline. They are only now driving the sheet piling for the platform to hold the pumps. They still have to finish driving that piling, build the platform, install the pumps and their piping, and also install the pumps' engines, hydraulic lines, and control systems. There is no way they will have that done in four weeks. I think it'll be more like eight, if past performance is any indication.

By the way, it's bad enough that the Corps promises this stuff publicly and doesn't deliver. But they are also making these promises privately to people in the know, and thinking those people won't figure it out. Also recently posted to the Corps Hurricane Protection System webpage is a presentation given to the American Society of Civil Engineers. I'm not sure where or why this presentation was given, but it also includes the chart shown on the pump capacity webpage. You can find it as slide number 1 in Part 3 of the presentation, linked here (caution - slow link). The chart shows those two pumps as "On schedule," as well as the four west side pumps. The presentation was given on September 18th, when it was painfully obvious those two extra pumps on the east side would not be ready.

Why can't they just tell the truth?


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