Nov. 15 marks the second anniversary of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, legislation that delivered $17.1 billion in supplemental funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers across the enterprise. Of that total investment, approximately $1.7 billion was appropriated to the North Atlantic Division to support investigations (studies), construction, the Continuing Authorities Program, and operations and maintenance.
"The transformative investments of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will continue to meet the President’s priorities of strengthening supply chains to bring down costs for working families, protecting American economic competitiveness, combatting climate change, and promoting equity by prioritizing underserved communities," said Michael L. Connor, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
At the division, regional management for BIL projects is handled through its Civil Works directorate and specifically by the lead BIL project manager, Ronald Pinzon, who came to the division a year ago after working at the USACE New York District.
“The highlight of working on BIL, especially coming from the district where I worked for about 20 years, is taking all of the experience from other jobs I’ve had and applying it here directly with headquarters regionally, as well as nationally,” said Pinzon. “It’s a whole lot of learning, but it’s also solving issues and barriers that the districts are coming across, and I get to help them with their execution by addressing those challenges.”
Presently, approximately $240 million of NAD’s BIL allocation has been executed. Some project highlights across the region over the past couple of years since BIL was passed include:
The Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration project is in the vicinity of the James and Barren Islands in western Dorchester County, Maryland. It focuses on restoring and expanding island habitat to provide hundreds of acres of wetland and terrestrial habitat for fish, shellfish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals through the beneficial use of dredged material. The project implements a long-term strategy for providing viable placement alternatives to meet the dredging needs of the Port of Baltimore while maximizing the use of dredged materials as a beneficial resource. The project consists of constructing environmental restoration projects at both James and Barren Islands to restore 2,144 acres of remote island habitat (2,072 acres at James Island and 72 acres at Barren Island). BIL appropriated $84 million in construction funds, and the project partnership agreement for the construction phase of the overall $4 billion project was executed Aug. 23, 2022.
At Buffumville Lake in Charlton, Massachusetts, BIL provided more than $530,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking lot and access improvements. From October 2022 to May 2023 work included removing a shelter, repaving the emergency access road to the beach, increasing ADA parking spaces from three to 10, and building a new paved walkway leading to an ADA-compliant ramp with handrails to the restrooms. The Buffumville team identified the need for this work in 2017 and BIL allowed it to come to fruition. The prior lack of handicapped access was a frequent comment by visitors before the improvements, and according to the site’s park rangers, the team has received many positive comments since the area reopened.
The New York District is leveraging an infusion of $126 million in BIL funding to undertake crucial maintenance and enhancement projects across several vital waterways, including Barnegat Inlet in New Jersey, New York Harbor and the extensive network of channels serving the bustling Port of Newark and Elizabeth in New Jersey. This strategic allocation of funds is poised to fortify the infrastructure that underpins an estimated $15.7 billion in economic activity, both regionally and nationally. The investment will address sediment accumulation, navigational safety, and ecological sustainability, ensuring the shipping and recreational channels remain accessible and reliable. These improvements are expected not only to sustain but to potentially boost economic vitality by optimizing the efficiency of commercial vessel transit and safeguarding the region's reputation as a premier maritime hub.
BIL appropriated $141.7 million in construction funds for the Norfolk Harbor and Channels, 55-ft. Channel Deepening project in Virginia. On Oct. 16, Norfolk District opened bids on USACE’s third construction contract supporting the project. The milestone is significant, because with this path to contract award, the 55-ft. channel project could be ready for use by deeply laden containerships and coal ships as early as the spring of 2025. The contract package also has options for the beneficial use of beach sand at two locations in the city of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Earlier contracts using BIL funds were awarded in August 2022 for the Channel to Newport News and Norfolk Harbor Inners Channels and in April 2023 for Phase 1 of the Atlantic Ocean Channel. Other portions of the project in Thimble Shoal Channel are nearly completed by the Virginia Port Authority to fulfill their share of the overall project cost of approximately $472 million.
The Inland Waterway from Rehoboth Bay to Delaware Bay project (also known as Lewes & Rehoboth Canal in Sussex County, Delaware) received BIL funding enabling the dredging of the federal channel of the canal for the first time in many years. USACE’s contractor began work in October 2023. The dredged material from the canal will be placed in a facility in Lewes, Delaware, and the contractor will be removing approximately 40,000 cubic yards of sediment at a cost of $1.6 million. The waterway is used by commercial and recreational fishing charter boats, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative (DBRC). BIL appropriated $3.78 million for Operations and Maintenance funding.
“Throughout the North Atlantic Division, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law brings solid investment to a variety of projects that benefit the people of the region in terms of safety, quality of life and disaster mitigation, to name just a few important aspects,” said Col. John P. Lloyd, NAD commander and division engineer. “This supplemental funding has enhanced USACE’s ability to deliver the program and meet the needs of our state and local partners on projects that will make a difference at the community level.”
USACE’s overall fiscal year spend plans and policy guidance for implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are listed on the headquarters website at: https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Supplemental-Work/BIL/.
The Design and Construction Evaluation (DCE) program is part of the North Atlantic Division (NAD) regional quality assurance program. As a major subordinate command, NAD is responsible for quality assurance of the districts within its area of responsibility.
“Quality assurance is such a broad topic; there's so many areas that we need to look at to make sure we're getting quality products and that we're achieving quality construction standards,” said Matthew Walsh, an engineering and construction quality assurance coordinator at NAD. “We need to look at many different processes and procedures within engineering and construction in any phase.”
As part of NAD’s command guidance, districts nominate projects to examine that are either under construction or being designed, with an average of 12 projects nominated per fiscal year. Of the nominations, one project per each of the districts is selected by the DCE program to be evaluated.
“Ideally, we look for a project that’s under construction, in the 30 to 50 percent completion, but we have looked at projects in the design phase and we’ve gone back and looked at those projects reviewed under design during construction as well,” Walsh said.
“We try to get a pretty good cross section between military, civil works, environmental, interagency or international work just so we’re reviewing all of our business lines,” said Tyler Bush, who is also an engineering and construction quality assurance coordinator for NAD.
Once the projects are picked, a review team is chosen comprised of members from different districts.
“We try to put together a multidisciplinary team,” Bush said. “We build about a ten-person team from non-local districts. We ask for senior personnel, but, sometimes, we get folks that are new to the Corps and that brings different perspectives to the project.”
After they get together, the review teams will visit the site for three days to evaluate the project.
“We interview the PDT [Project Delivery Team], the construction folks, engineering, project management, the stakeholders, and the user,” Walsh said. “On day three, we put together a PowerPoint presentation that's turned into the DCE report that has all the findings and recommendations. We identify strengths and weaknesses, as well as any nonconformance or critical issue that could be a safety concern missing significant project documentation or not following policy.”
“We try to evaluate the project through all phases of the acquisition lifecycle, from planning, design, construction,” said Bush. “Usually, we don't make it to contract closeout, but there may be other contracts where we are able to review that phase.
“We look for compliance with policy, our enterprise and regional processes, and then, of course, best practices. We make recommendations, but then we also are there to assess regional strengths and weaknesses and gather lessons learned that we can take back to other districts or the enterprise. Although we are reviewing one project, we try to review both from a broad sense of what impacts other areas of our business and other districts and a focused sense of what impacts this project or other projects within the district, and then we try to take those back and incorporate those lessons elsewhere.”
Steve Dougherty, a construction project engineer at New England District’s Westover Resident Office, said his experience being evaluated while working on a Westover Air Reserve Base hangar for the Regionalized Isochronal Inspection program was a good and validating experience.
“I always welcome a second set of eyes coming to the site,” Dougherty said. “The team did identify some areas to work on which was good. We take them in as positives.
“They were also very excited about the fact that it was a very clean site and the relationship with the contractor was fantastic and just the way the team worked and the dynamics of everything. It was nice to hear it confirmed from someone. We always think we got a good team, and when you have your staff assistance visit and they confirm it, it’s rewarding.”
Dougherty also has had the opportunity to be a part of a review team, and noted it was another rewarding experience.
“It’s nice because you’re meeting up with people from different districts,” he said. “It gives you the opportunity to dialogue on themes and methods and on taking care of certain situations whether it’s a good idea, bad idea, tough contractor and quality control. So, it’s just seeing how other people deal with it and trying to work the benefits out of that.
“The biggest thing is the positives that can come out of it and then the positive takeaways and passing them along, because not every district does things the same way and some have some things that really work well, and it gives you an opportunity to try it out.”
“They [reviewers] are happy to help and they would love to come out again. We end up with a lot of repeat reviewers that way. We couldn’t do it without their expertise,” Bush said.
Recently, Walsh and Bush released their first overall Design and Construction Evaluation Report, which covers and summarizes findings from all of the projects evaluated during the fiscal year.
“The annual report cuts to the chase and gets important snippets out of these DCE reports. It provides a specific synopsis of what we saw at each project and then the trends from that year’s DCE program,” Bush said. “It makes it a lot faster for us to refer back to in the future when we’re thinking about some of these lessons learned or training activities that we would like to see.”
This year’s evaluations are already underway, with Bush and Walsh having completed three of the six visits.
“This year, we added folks outside of the North Atlantic Division to help give us a broader perspective,” Bush said. “Matt and I are reaching and trying to coordinate with other MSCs [major subordinate commands] that are performing DCEs to bring them on board to see how we’re doing it and then teach us what they do a little differently or give us advice as well.”
Bush and Walsh reflected on their roles as quality assurance coordinators.
“For me being in this role, I feel that it’s probably the most beneficial role I’ve had in my career,” Walsh said. “I think performing these quality reviews, we always provide findings and recommendations that make a difference, whether it’s adding a process or highlighting something that is a regional issue. I have a diverse background, so I feel I can use that knowledge I have gained over the years and look at many types of projects reviewing processes and procedures and highlighting what’s most important.”
“What I like is that Matt and I, I feel, have a very broad mission assignment,” Bush said. “Within that, we really get to choose our own adventure, find the projects that are most critical and interesting to us, and determine the best ways to bring this information back and improve execution in the region. We also get to meet, and learn from, so many different teams and see so many varied projects. I think that we make a difference, and it feels good that we have a positive influence on an organization as critical as the Corps of Engineers.”