Fix the pumps

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Debris Part 9

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14

Good news on the project at the center of the debris problems on the west bank: WBV-14c.2. That project has had serious problems with concrete, wood, steel, and other flotsam in its dirt supply.

As I've posted in the past, the debris laden dirt was coming out of a borrow pit owned by the River Birch organization, a landfill firm currently at the center of a large federal investigation of Jefferson Parish politics.

This month, the Corps finally (after nearly a year) told the WBV-14c.2 contractor (Phylway) to stop using the cruddy River Birch pit and to switch to the much cleaner Willow Bend pit near Donaldsonville. It was announced as part of an inspection of the site on August 9, 2011:
"USACE recently instructed contractor (via email) to change borrow pit and start hauling in material from the Willow Bend Pit for the remainder of the borrow material for the site. A modification to the contract will be issued in the incoming days.

Approximately 30,000 cubic yards are left to be hauled in."

That same day, the inspectors were told about a rather large chunk of concrete that had been dug out of the existing levee. Remember that this project involves using the existing levee to build up a new, taller levee behind it:

When one looks a picture of the concrete, it doesn't look so bad:

Then when one sees the size of it compared to a truck, it's clear how huge it is:

That was sitting in the levee for years before Katrina struck.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another deadline missed

Back in June, when the Corps had the press out to the West Closure Complex for their pump demonstration (when they turned on 8 of the 11 pumps), they claimed all 11 would be ready by the peak of hurricane season, defined as the period between Augst 15 and October 1:

"[Corps project manager Kevin] Wagner said the remaining three pumps are expected to be operational by the peak of the hurricane season."

As of today, according to SLFPA-W inspector Danny Caluda, 10 of the 11 pumps (nos. 4 through 13) have been wet and dry tested, but pump number 3 is still not ready, and is possibly not going to be for quite a while. It kind of makes one wonder about Mr. Wagner's designation by the Corps as Project Manager of the Year, especially the fact it was given before the project was even close to finished.

What are the consequences of this? Looking at the results of the modeling done by the Corps in connection with the consequences of the pumping shortfall from the Interim Standing Instructions attached to the WCC Water Control Plan:

Water elevations behind the stations are shown in the left hand column. The reason they stop at 8.2 feet is that is the elevation when stormwater - pumped from local pump stations into the the detention basin formed by the Harvey and Algiers canals - would overflow the floodwalls and levees along those canals. This table assumes two things:

1) The floodgates at the WCC are closed, necessitating turning on the WCC pumps to remove the stormwater from the detention basin

2) The local pumping stations are pumping continuously the whole time, a circumstance the Corps calls "unlikely," but we all know what happens with events the Corps calls "unlikely."

Along the bottom row of the table is the total amount of time for that overflow to occur. It happens because the WCC has no spare capacity built it; it can only keep up with the local pumping stations with all 11 of its pumps on. As you can see, with only 8 pumps it would take a little over 17 hours for the local pump stations to overwhelm the WCC pumps and send water into neighborhoods (either over the floodwalls or because local pump stations would be shut down). There are now ten pumps in place, meaning the WCC can operate for 50 hours continuously until the walls are overtopped or the local pump stations must shut down.

Note that assumes all ten pumps don't break down at any point during that time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Inspections from the other side

The inspection reports from the state-contracted inspectors on loan to the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - West (SLFPA-West) have been invaluable in keeping track of the various storylines unfolding at the Corps projects on the west bank. I've personally spun out a dozen posts based on them.

The question has always been, "Why is it only the west bank flood protection authority has these inspection reports? What's the SLFPA-East been doing?"

Wonder no more. I've received the SLFPA-East inspection reports from January, 2010 through June, 2011. They are all bundled up in a single zipped file here. The file is huge - almost 800 megs - and contains about 1360 individual inspection reports and a handful of other related documents. The reports are organized by day and by inspector, with each day having up to five individual reports, each from a different inspector. If you can organize by the file path within your zipped file browser, it'll make it easier to view the reports in order. The inspectors seem to cover set geographical areas (St Bernard Parish, Orleans lakefront, etc), so each report contains information on multiple Corps projects. The inspectors were provided by PBS&J.

I have not reviewed all these files yet, but I wanted to make them available as soon as I could. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Decison day? Yes

According to the GAO bid protest docket website (plug in "W912P8" in the "Solicitation Number" field to get all Corps New Orleans District protests, including the six actions on the permanent pumps solicitation of W912P8-09-R-0013), today is the deadline for the first of the permanent pump station protests to be decided. Of course, that might just be an artifact of the GAO's reporting, and the decision might not come for a couple of months. Still, I did want to put the news out there.

Update - later in the day

Maybe today wasn't the deadline, because no decision was recorded on the GAO's webpage. Perhaps the actual deadline is in October, as I surmised earlier. Hits on my blog today indicated keen interest, so maybe something happened and the webpage just didn't get updated.

Update - the next day

Huge news - the GAO upheld all the bidders' protests.

They updated their webpage today, indicating the protests were sustained. They also released a statement on the decision to the media, but not to the public yet. The Times-Picayune wrote it up with the lede:
"The process the Army Corps of Engineers used to award a $675-million contract for pump stations to a New Orleans firm that had hired an official who formerly worked for the agency was flawed, according to a decision from Congress's investigative arm."

This refers to the lead firm in the winning coalition - CDM - hiring Richmond Kendrick, the Corps' former Chief of Program Execution for the just shuttered Hurricane Protection Office (HPO).

It's remarkable that the GAO actually rejected a bid award because of the infamous revolving door between the Corps and their contractors.

There was some other stuff too:
"The GAO's decision noted several flaws in the process used to award the contract. In particular, the Corps failed to properly evaluate CBY's technical proposal for pump station operation and that bidders 'may have been misled about the role of price in the evaluation.'"

Corps stenographer Engineering News-Record also had a write-up, adding an extra detail:
"Related to pump station operation, GAO also notes a technical discrepancy, says White. "The Corps evaluation was flawed because the agency's requirements for withstanding lateral loads," he says."

I'll keep an eye out for any indication the revised bid specs have been circulated to the final five bidders, assuming all of them bid again. It's hard to see how CDM will succeed unless they remove the problem that led to the decision, but we'll see.

And of course, this means the rusty pumps will stay out there much longer. Even if they all have their carbon steel parts replaced with stainless steel, there's still unaddressed design flaws. And the testing they do - ten minutes every six or eight weeks (or longer - it's kind of whenever they get around to it) - doesn't prove anything other than they can turn on the engines.

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