JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District is preparing for a productive 2024 construction season in the Last Frontier. The organization’s robust workload includes major infrastructure construction efforts under the district’s civil and military programs in every corner of the state. These projects are constructed in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders and contractors.
“Protection of people and local economies is a central theme in the district’s upcoming workload,” said Valerie Palmer, acting chief of the district’s Programs and Project Management Division. “These important constructions will inhibit coastal erosion, support national security and bolster human health and safety.”
The organization expects to award at least $125 million for civil works projects, making this category its largest area of investment in 2024. Following the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in January 2022, the district’s portfolio of projects will be funded with nearly $1 billion for critical civil works and disaster relief projects in the coming decade. Many of these efforts will contribute to the development of the state’s water resources, help boost economies and reduce flood and storm risks for more than one dozen communities.
Civil infrastructure projects on the horizon
In 2019, USACE published the Kenai River Bluffs Bank Stabilization Section 116 Feasibility Study that recommended the establishment of a protective berm at the bluff toe. The protective material will span nearly 5,000 feet along the base of the eroding bluff. It will consist of 42,400 cubic yards of armor rock, 33,200 cubic yards of crushed rock and 13,100 cubic yards of gravel base.
On Sep. 25, 2023, Col. Jeffrey Palazzini, commander of the Alaska District, joined Hon. Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Terry Eubank, city manager of Kenai, in the signing of the project partnership agreement for the project. Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Brian Gabriel, mayor of Kenai, witnessed the milestone agreement.
“This project is protecting some critical infrastructure in the community of Kenai,” Palmer said. “Residences, businesses and the local senior center will each receive protections from coastal erosion because of this important work.”
The district will award a contract for the Kenai River Bluffs Erosion Project in 2024, with a significant amount of construction anticipated to begin this year as well.
In North Pole, the Moose Creek Dam Safety Modification Project is another key effort that will have a valuable impact on the greater Fairbanks community. Bauer Foundation Corp. of Florida will enter its third season constructing a mix-in-place concrete barrier wall under a contract currently valued at $75.7 million. Once finished, it will span 6,200 linear feet at depths of up to 65 feet at the dam.
The improvement project was needed after a USACE modification study conducted in 2017 recommended the establishment of a reinforced dam embankment to extend the life of the aging infrastructure. The safety upgrade will enhance the dam’s strength and stability to provide the greater Fairbanks area with continued flood protection for many years to come.
The district concluded the 2023 construction season at Moose Creek Dam in October. The team reached the midway point of their work and will continue to install the barrier in the spring. Construction of this project began in the spring of 2022 and is scheduled to be complete by January 2026. The modification is the largest USACE civil works construction effort in Alaska since the completion of the Snettisham Hydroelectric Project near Juneau.
Meanwhile in Nome, the construction of the Port of Nome Modification Project will provide larger vessels with improved access to the existing harbor by enlarging the outer basin and creating a new deep-water basin at a depth of minus 40 feet. Dredging is required to deepen and maintain both basins and associated navigation channels. Currently, ship transportation is limited by existing depths in the outer basin of minus 22 feet. This depth is inadequate to safely accommodate vessels of drafts greater than 18 feet.
The organization signed the project partnership agreement with the city of Nome in January, marking the official start of implementing construction efforts between the two stakeholders. The project opened for solicitation shortly after the agreement was signed and a contract is expected to be awarded in the third quarter of the federal fiscal year.
“The port modification at Nome carries some far-reaching implications,” Palmer said. “The region’s economy and national security interests will each see tangible benefits from this construction.”
In Alaska’s northernmost community of Utqiagvik, the district will execute the Barrow Coastal Erosion Project from funding allocated under the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, or DRSAA. Utqiagvik, previously known as Barrow, is the political and economic hub of the North Slope Borough and experiences severe coastal storms. The district will create a rock revetment at the bluff area, build a protective berm and raise Stevenson Street. This effort will directly protect important cultural resources, infrastructure and human safety.
“This is an essential project for the North Slope Borough and the community of Utqiagvik,” Palmer said. “The construction will protect their critical infrastructure and cultural resources from the intense storm damage that the area often experiences.”
On Aug. 29, 2023, Palazzini signed the project partnership agreement for the Barrow Coastal Erosion Project with Harry Brower Jr., mayor of the North Slope Borough. Sen. Dan Sullivan witnessed the signing and provided remarks during the ceremony.
The district issued a request for proposals for phase one of the project in December. A contract award is anticipated in the third quarter of the federal fiscal year.
Recent federal legislation will produce a large influx of project funds and contract opportunities across Alaska in the next year and beyond. Important civil works efforts across the state represent one of the district’s central areas of focus in the coming decade, and the organization is prepared to work with contractors to execute these projects for the state’s communities.
The runway extension project at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson continues to be one of the district’s largest and most significant military construction projects. In July 2022, the district awarded a $309 million contract to Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. to extend the existing north-south runway by 2,500 feet to bring its total length to 10,000 feet. This construction will exponentially increase JBER’s capability as a force projection platform and further advance the national defense strategy. So far, the team has excavated over 11 million cubic yards of material while working year-round and is rapidly approaching the end of excavation. This critical project is scheduled for completion in September 2025.
“The Alaska District’s current objectives in military construction are in line with larger goals around the agency,” Palmer said. “Quality-of-life improvements will continue to be a significant priority for the organization in 2024.”
These projects include new infrastructure as well as renovations and modernization of existing facilities requiring upgrades.
Among these renovations is the Turnagain Hall dormitory on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The district awarded a $20.3 million contract for this project to Silver Mountain Construction of Anchorage under a 100% small business set-aside in November. Improvements at the facility will upgrade a common area on the first floor and convert two rooms on the upper floors into new bed spaces to expand residential capacity to 58 occupants. The district anticipates the construction to be completed in January 2026.
In addition, the district awarded a $67 million contract to Unit Company in May 2023 for the construction of an 84-person dormitory at Clear Space Force Station. The three-story facility will consist of a reinforced concrete foundation with slab on grade, reinforced concrete masonry walls with exterior insulation and finish, as well as a standing seam metal roof. This important project will also include a severe weather passageway from the new dormitory to a central location.
Meanwhile, a new child development center at Fort Wainwright is another important example of the district’s commitment to quality-of-life enhancements for military members and their families. The $31.2 million contract for this facility was awarded to Watterson Construction Co. in November 2021. The new center will accommodate 338 children ranging from six weeks to five years old. This project is nearing completion and is anticipated to be ready for use in 2024.
Collaborating with small businesses
Working with small businesses is a key element of the district’s project execution strategy. In all areas of the organization’s missions, small businesses are critical and highly valued.
“Small business contributions span throughout the entire portfolio of what the Alaska District does,” said Ryan Zachry, small business professional at the Alaska District. “They are critical for our ability to accomplish civil works, environmental, construction and design projects.”
The district has maintained projects set aside for small businesses for military projects at Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base, Eareckson Air Force Station and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in 2024. Renovations and quality-of-life upgrades for people serving in the military stand as the most notable designations, although large projects such as the runway extension project at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson still maintain an important small business component.
The district’s Formerly Used Defense Sites program also contains numerous examples leveraging small business contracts in support of the mission. In one instance, the organization contracted with ARS Aleut Remediation to decommission a septic vault at Caines Head-Fort McGilvray in Resurrection Bay near Seward. The team completed this work in September 2023.
In addition, the district contracted with Brice Engineering of Anchorage to complete a remedial investigation, feasibility study, proposed plan and record of decision at the Nike Site Bay Formerly Used Defense Site on the Knik Arm, which housed a Nike Hercules missile system during the Cold War. After they completed the remedial investigation in 2022, Brice continues to work closely with the district to complete the remainder of the required project documentations.
For small businesses who wish to partner with the district for the first time, Zachry recommends two methods to facilitate their experience.
“Forming a partnership with an established business through a mentor-protégé agreement or performing as a subcontractor on large contracts are excellent ways to establish a small business on the radar of the Alaska District,” Zachry said. “Our organization values past performance when seeking contractors, and these are great approaches to establishing that experience.”
Registration in the “System for Award Management” website, which can be accessed at www.sam.gov, is another critical component of small business participation with the district. As the official U.S. government system for contract opportunities, data and entity information, the website is a valuable resource for small businesses to learn about opportunities and build their brand awareness.
“This platform is a superb tool for small businesses to gain awareness of and compete for contracts,” Zachry said. “The entire federal government uses this platform whenever they buy anything.”
The Apex Accelerators program, formerly known as the Procurement Technical Assistance program, or PTAP, is another valuable resource for small businesses who wish to work with USACE. This government program provides education and training resources that equip businesses with the tools and knowledge they need to participate in federal, state and local contracts.
“A lot of new small businesses are not aware that there is a government agency with the sole mission of helping them compete for government contracts,” Zachry said. “They provide many of their services for free and are excellent at what they do.”
Projects across the state spanning many of the district’s missions will be awarded and executed in 2024, and the organization is excited to work with partners and stakeholders to complete them. Important civil works projects in many locations will see progress in the solicitation and awarding process this year. As these constructions take shape, the importance of the district’s collaboration with its partners stands clearer than ever.
“Our relationships with contractors, no matter their size or expertise, are critical to accomplishing these projects,” Palmer said. “They are an indispensable element of the Alaska District’s mission, and we couldn’t execute our work without them.”