Water Resources Branch prevails through challenging year

Published Jan. 14, 2014

Two of the most powerful influences in the world challenged Jacksonville District’s Water Resources Branch in 2013: nature and the President of the United States.

The influences actually began in 2012 and then “led to an unprecedented year in execution,” said Jerry Scarborough, branch chief. 

Nature struck powerful blows against Florida in 2012 with storm-force winds, rain and large swells that caused more than $68 billion in damages and brought a record amount of emergency navigation and beach restoration work to Jacksonville District.

Also in 2012, President Barack Obama launched the “We Can’t Wait” initiative to expedite nationally significant infrastructure projects, including modernizing and expanding major ports in the United States.  This included Jacksonville Harbor and Miami Harbor. 

For the Port of Jacksonville, the initiative included the project team completing a feasibility study by April 2014, months ahead of previous projections.  Jason Harrah, project manager, said the only obstacle preventing the team from achieving this goal will be the late submission of the biological opinion from National Marine Fisheries Service. The port’s Mile Point Project design work and collaboration also continues as the Mile Point Navigational Study awaits congressional authorization and appropriation.

As for the Miami Harbor project, this is another success story. “We awarded a base and options contract for the largest navigation contract ($206 million) in the country,” Scarborough said.  But wait – there’s more.  “Miami Harbor is also the first 50-foot project in South Atlantic Division history and it set the precedent for future sponsor funding of large construction projects,” he said. 

Miami Harbor construction started in November, said Laurel Reichold, project manager, with crews expected to excavate 2.1 million cubic yards of dredge material.  A contract option was executed in December and Reichold anticipates another option execution this month.

“We also completed the Civil Works Review Board for Canaveral Harbor 203, which received unanimous approval to move forward. Efforts continued on major navigation studies at Port Everglades and Lake Worth Inlet, and also on the Flagler County coastal study,” Reichold added.

“We anticipate four Civil Works Review Boards in 2014 as a result of these study efforts,” Scarborough said.

These port project teams tackled new processes and overcame barriers to meet their critical milestones.  And while they were doing all that, they were also making plans and preparing designs to get critical sand on heavily eroded federal beaches and clear navigation channels. 

“Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Debby brought an unprecedented amount of emergency projects to us and resulted in 22 unscheduled projects in fiscal year 2013,” Scarborough said. 

More than $145 million in emergency contracts were awarded by the end of September.  In the end, about 8 million cubic yards of material will restore 38.5 miles of eroded beaches, and maintenance at nine ports or channels will make navigation safer.  By the start of the 2014 hurricane season, a majority of the coastal projects rehabilitation will be complete with a few still under way, providing for essential protection of lives, infrastructure and the environment.

In addition to challenges posed by powerful influences, the Water Resources Branch also awarded ten contracts that were previously scheduled, totaling more than $60 million.

“This adds up to a tremendous year in execution,” Scarborough said.   

Scarborough added that the emergency work success was due in large part to Engineering Division’s Jim Lagrone.  “He was a real champion for us this year.  Jim was saddled with the task of preparing the plans and specifications for the majority of emergency work and really came through for us.”

Scarborough said that he’d have to name a very long list of people who contributed to making great strides in the past year.  “It took a huge team effort and each person was a part of it in one way or another.”