Fix the pumps

Sunday, February 11, 2007

More floodgate pump news

First, this is the first of three new posts I've put up this weekend, along with an update to my Monday London Avenue post. So keep scrolling when you get to the end of this, because there's a lot more information to see.

The Times-Picayune put out a big article last Tuesday, February 6th, about the extra pumps going in at the 17th Street and London Avenue floodgates. I've been reporting on these pumps for quite a while, and much of the article contained previously reported information that's appeared here and in the paper, so I'll dispense with that and skip right to the new information.

1) The $85 million (that's a lot!) design-build contract for the construction and installation of the pump platforms, discharge pipes and other structural matters, as well as the installation of the pumps themselves, has been issued to Weston Solutions of West Chester, PA. The press release on Weston's website gives more details.

According to that press release, Weston is partnering with M.R. Pittman of Harahan, LA and Dynamic Indistries of New Iberia, LA. M.R. Pittman also won the $52.5 million contract to procure the 19 extra pumps, as I reported on January 18th about this contract. In that post, I also reported there appears to be a $15.5 million gap between the money going to Pittman and the money going to the two pump manuafacturers. Now Pittman has gotten another huge chunk of work.

However, what is really interesting about the Weston contract is who is not mentioned: Boh Brothers, the current installation contractor at 17th Street. From this press release, it would appear at first blush that they are OUT at 17th Street. Here's the exact verbiage from the press release:
"In order to perform this fast-track project, [Weston] partnered with two Louisiana-based construction contractors, M.R. Pittman Group, LLC and Dynamic Industries, Inc. LLC, who will perform construction services on the London Avenue and 17th Street Canals."

So it sure looks like the Corps is dropping Boh at 17th Street and replacing them with Dynamic.

2) Also very interesting is that the contract was issued through the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence, or AFCEE. I don't know what to make about an Army contract getting issued by the Air Force, but it would appear to be the Corps actually thinking outside the box. One wonders why they haven't done this before?

3) Engineering firms on the job will be BBG&S Engineering Consultants of Birmingham, AL (apparently very small, with no webpage) and Gresham, Smith & Partners (apparently very large, webpage here). According to the Louisiana Secretary of State's website, BBG&S just registered to do business in Louisiana on January 4, 2007. Considering that bids for this contract were due late last year, that means that the Corps accepted a bid from a company that wasn't licensed to do business in Lousiana at the time of the bid. Interesting.

Weston appears to have at least four standing contracts with the AFCEE. Also, many of their executives have spent significant time with the Corps.

4) On his way out the door, retiring top Corps civilian Dan Hitchings took a peevish final swipe at New Orleans' citizens and local governments. He thinks we should be far more thankful for the Corps' efforts, no matter how late their results are:
"The goal is to have the last of the 19 new pumps in place and fully functioning by late July or mid-August. But corps representatives say one of the lessons of the past year of delays, setbacks and underestimated challenges is not to guarantee a date of delivery.

'We've learned not to speculate on schedules and not to give optimistic schedules,' said Dan Hitchings, who was the corps' civilian director of Katrina rebuilding until he retired Friday. 'It hurts your credibility because the dates are all people remember, no matter how much you're doing to try and get there.

'So until we get the contractors' schedules, the July-August window is our best estimate for getting the increased capacity,' he said."

Poor Dan. Perhaps he thinks the Corps should get a medal of appreciation for all their hard work, no matter how few the results. Oh wait! They already got one - from themselves!

We're supposed to take time out and reflect on how much the Corps has done every time they miss a deadline? Yeah, right. What chutzpah.

5) The Corps has finally recognized that they don't have enough pumps at the floodgates, even with this extra infusion of cash:
"The higher numbers are still considerably shy of the maximum rated capacity of Sewerage & Water Board pumps before floodgates were installed: 10,500 cfs in the 17th, 3,400 cfs in the Orleans and 8,000 cfs in the London. To reach those rated capacities, which are the top under ideal conditions, the corps would have to add another 3,000 cfs or so at both the 17th Street and the London Avenue canals. At Orleans, which drains far less water, corps officials have no plans to increase its pumping capacity above 2,200 cfs.

Corps officials said they are investigating whether they can equal the maximum provided by the S&WB.

'We've been working to match what the drainage systems are designed to handle -- a 10-year rain event -- and that's where the 7,600 and 4,800 numbers came from,' Hitchings said.

'But the Sewerage & Water Board says they can pump more than that, and they're right,' he said. 'They can pump that much if it's ponded, but what is the sustained pumping capacity? That's what we're re-examining.

'That's the guidance I've just given to Col. Bedey,' Hitchings said during his last week on the job before retiring. 'We'll re-evaluate and put in as much flow as they can sustain.'

It's amazing to see how slow their minds turn. We are a year and a half out from the storm, and they are only now realizing that their pumping scheme comes up woefully short?

By the way, the number for Orleans Avenue is an error on the part of the Times-Picayune. The actual capacity of station 7, which is at the entrance of the Orleans Avenue canal, is 2690 cfs. There are two 1000 cfs pumps, a 550 cfs pump, and two 70 cfs pumps.

6) Finally, a local paper in Pennsylvania did a write-up on Weston's contract award. It mostly includes information from the Weston press release. However, it also includes this gem from a Weston spokesman about the MWI Corp. pumps that are out there right now, and which are not going anywhere:
"'The pumps that were there didn’t work all that well,' said David Campbell, spokesman for Weston Solutions."



  • If I understand what you are saying, the pumps are needed to reduce the floodwater levels. The more water, the more capacity needed.

    Therefore the Army has designed a system around the idea that if there is too much floodwater, New Orleans needs reduced pumping capacity.

    This seems like perfect Army logic to me-all that is missing are the press releases touting the new recreational boating opportunities, and the letting of concessions for new in-town marina operators.

    By Blogger fake consultant, at March 02, 2007 1:51 PM  

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