Lake Michigan waterways contracts awarded

August 14, 2009
| By Pete Daly |
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Stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have generated Lake Michigan waterways projects underway this summer by three West Michigan companies, while other contracts are expected to be awarded soon for an extensive, long-term project to restore much of the natural shoreline of Muskegon Lake.

Three companies have already been awarded contracts for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects at St. Joseph, Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven and Ludington. According to the federal government's ARRA Web site, www.recovery.gov, the Corps of Engineers has announced $7.8 million worth of projects for Michigan, out of a total of $7.1 billion in stimulus funds that will be administered by about two dozen federal agencies within the state of Michigan.

One of the largest marine projects funded by the Corps along the lakeshore is $3.9 million to repair the walls of the federally owned channel that leads from Lake Michigan to the Saugatuck harbor on Kalamazoo Lake. The contract was awarded to Great Lakes Docks & Material LLC of Muskegon, a heavy marine construction company formed in 1973 by the late John Bultema II and George Bailey.

The King Co. Inc. of Holland has been awarded an ARRA contract worth about $1.27 million to dredge up and remove up to 120,000 cubic yards of sand from Ludington harbor, under the "small business set aside" criteria for federal projects. King also has a $485,340 contract to dredge about 50,000 cubic yards of shoal sand from St. Joseph harbor, and contracts for $260,000 and $195,000 respectively, for dredging operations at Grand Haven and Holland, according to Wayne Schloop, chief of operations at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Detroit.

Construction Concepts & Design Inc. recently completed work as the general contractor on a $300,819 repair job on the Grand Haven pier. According to the Corps of Engineers, the project entailed repair of 14 feet of the pier's steel sheet pile revetment wall that had been damaged when struck by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw in December 2005. The Corps estimates the project added about 13 direct and indirect jobs to the economy.

According to the Corps, the Saugatuck channel project will generate about 175 direct and indirect jobs.

George Bailey, CEO of Great Lakes Dock & Materials, said his company is ordering materials for the Saugatuck job now and expects to begin the work in mid- to late September. He estimated that the actual number of people employed on the job site might be up to 25 but that the Corps estimate of up to 175 direct and indirect is probably accurate because it takes into account people working to supply the steel and other materials that will be needed.

"Everything will be purchased from U.S. companies," he said.

Rod Stewart, president of CCDI, said his is a small company that fluctuates in size with its work load, usually ranging from 10 to as many as 60 employees. The company headquarters are at Burton and Kalamazoo in Grand Rapids, but it operates throughout the western half of the Lower Peninsula. Stewart said about seven people were directly employed on the pier repair project, which required two weeks to finish.

CCDI, a designated 8(a) minority contractor, subcontracted with Great Lakes Dock & Material for much of the work removing the damaged sheet pilings and installing new ones. Stewart said the project required an increased level of safety precautions because it involved the use of a crane lifting heavy steel into the air over the pier, and the crane operator had to stop work occasionally to allow waiting tourists and fishermen to pass around the worksite.

CCDI and Great Lakes Dock & Materials will both be working on a Corps-supervised project to install new pilings that will support the city of Grand Haven's boardwalk on the south side of the Grand Haven channel. That project is not funded with ARRA stimulus money, however.

All three companies — Great Lakes Dock & Materials, King Co. and CCDI — have had many years of experience working on government contracts. One of King Co.'s latest contracts was for an earth retention system during construction of the new Ottawa County Courthouse. King was incorporated in 1983 and works throughout the Great Lakes region.

CCDI is currently constructing an addition on the 88th U.S. Army Reserve Center on Three Mile Road in Walker, and it just began work on a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control tower at Purdue University in Indiana. Stewart said the FAA project is expected to take 45 days to complete.

Great Lakes Dock & Materials is the prime contractor on another ARRA project, a $500,000 dredging job at Little Lake Harbor on Lake Superior near Paradise. The company is based on the shore of Muskegon Lake, and its lake frontage is one of the targeted sites for a $10 million ARRA stimulus project expected to create about 125 jobs starting this fall. The project is aimed at restoring much of the natural shoreline around the lake that was filled in by industrial development starting with the lumbering era.

The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission, in partnership with the Great Lakes Commission in Ann Arbor, received the grant from the Coastal Habitat Restoration division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in July. The project is intended to improve the aquatic habitat for fish and other species by removing more than 180,000 tons of degraded lake bottom sediment and restoring 10,000 feet of Muskegon Lake shoreline now characterized by deposits of foundry slag, broken concrete and rusting metal.

Sandeep Dey, executive director of the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission, said they will soon select an engineering/construction management company, which will prepare specifications for the work to be done and supervise the contractors under the direction of the West Michigan commission and Great Lakes Commission.

RFPs for work on two sites of the 10 targeted — four of which are owned either by the city of Muskegon or Muskegon County — will be going out soon, he said.

Dey said they hope to sign the contract for work on the city/county sites by late September or early October.

"We estimate one and a half years" to complete the entire Muskegon Lake natural habitat restoration project, said Dey.

Bailey of Great Lakes Dock & Materials said he has submitted information about his company and its capabilities to the people managing the Muskegon Lake restoration project, but he doesn't know yet if his company will be involved in the work, some of which may take place in his company’s backyard.

"I'm more heavy marine" (construction), said Bailey, noting that removal of fill along the shore could probably be done by excavating companies. If there is dredging work to remove old lumbering-era slab wood and logs from the bottom of the lake, he said, he might try for that.

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