Work on permanent canal closures, pumps for N.O. to begin this fall

A $614 million project to build permanent canal closures and pumps to keep storm surge out of New Orleans’ three outfall canals is expected to begin this fall, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Until that work is finished, interim closure structures built in 2006 will continue to be used to protect the Orleans Avenue, London Avenue and 17th Street canals from a 100-year-level storm surge.

The work will take 45 months to complete, according to the corps, meaning New Orleans will go through several more hurricane seasons with the temporary pumps and structures, which the corps has said have a limited lifespan.

But a corps statement said the temporary structures have performed as designed in four named storms, the most recent being Hurricane Isaac.

PCCP Constructors, a joint venture of Kiewit Louisiana Co., Traylor Bros. Inc and the M.R. Pittman group LLC, was awarded the contract.

The joint venture was one of two bidders that successfully appealed the corps’ 2011 decision to award the contract to CBY Design Builders. The other company was Bechtel Infrastructure.

The Government Accountability Office agreed with their challenge. The two bidders said the corps told them they had to use the full amount of the budget in the solicitation in developing their technical approach, according to a GAO document dated Aug. 4, 2011.

CBY proposed less and was credited by the corps for offering a lower price, the GAO document said.

The challengers also alleged that CBY had unequal access to information because it had hired a high-level government employee from the office responsible for the project procurement.

The corps limited its review to that accusation of a conflict of interest to the role that employee had in the procurement before his retirement, without considering his access to non-public information, the GAO said.

The corps rebid the project, and PCCP Constructors was awarded the contract last October.

“The Permanent Canal Closures and Pumps, commonly known as the Permanent Pumps, will provide permanent and more sustainable measure for reducing the risk of a 100-year level storm surge entering the three outfall canals,’’ the corps said in a statement issued Monday.

The notice to proceed clears the way for the joint venture to begin channel surveys and develop a schedule, the corps said.