Port project jumps right into frying pan

Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 12:00 am

By William L. Spence of the Tribune | 0 comments

Years of planning boiled down to one scorching hot day this week, when work officially started on the Port of Lewiston’s dock extension project.

The temperature Monday at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport was 106 degrees – an all-time high for July 1 – but Port Manager David Doeringsfeld said it was closer to 122 degrees down at the dock site.

That was bad news for the half-dozen employees of Advanced American Construction, the general contractor on the $2.9 million project.

“It was like a furnace,” said superintendent Dave Jackson. “You could feel the heat coming off the pavement. It just radiated off the blacktop. We had two guys who melted.”

Both of them had to go home early, but they were back at work Tuesday, when temperatures at the airport reached 103 degrees.

Advanced American started staging equipment a couple of weeks ago, Doeringsfeld said, but federal regulations prohibit any in-water work from being done until July 1.

“We have a window of July 1 to the end of September to do all the in-water work,” he said.

The whole project should be completed in about 95 days. It includes lengthening the dock by 150 feet – to 275 feet, up from 125 feet now – as well as relocating a large “dolphin” or rock-filled cylinder that barges tie up to. The stormwater collection system at the dock will also be redesigned.

The port received a $1.3 million federal grant to help pay for the project. It also received a $327,000 rural development grant from Idaho and a $600,000 loan from the Idaho Department of Agriculture, with port reserve funds picking up the remainder of the project’s cost.

The purpose of the dock extension is to increase the productivity and safety of port operations, Doeringsfeld said.

“Right now, once a tug moors a barge (at the dock), it may leave for two to five days,” he said, filling up the available dock space. When the extension is complete “we’ll be able to moor two barges. We’ll be able to load one while we’re unloading another. It also opens up some ‘breakbulk’ opportunities.”

Breakbulk shipments are anything that isn’t transported inside a truck shipping container, he said. It includes things like the drilling pipes, pumps and other supplies needed in North Dakota’s booming oil fields.

“A lot of the drill pipe is manufactured in the Pacific Rim, but right now it comes through the Panama Canal to Houston, then up (to North Dakota) from there,” Doeringsfeld said. “They could save thousands of nautical miles and land miles by coming through the Port of Lewiston.”

The first step in extending the dock is to pound in a series of interlocking steel pilings out where the edge of the dock will be. A big vibrating machine is used to set the pilings, to avoid disturbing fish with heavy hammering. Iron rods will then connect the pilings to some heavy concrete “deadmen” at the shoreline. The space between the pilings and deadmen will be filled with rocks, after which the whole thing is capped with a layer of concrete.

Coordinating the construction work with barge activity hasn’t been an issue so far, Doeringsfeld said, but that may change next week when two large, ocean-going barges are scheduled to arrive. They’ll pick up a load of 39 modular dorms that are being shipped to Seward, Alaska.

Ocean-going barges are an anomaly for the Port of Lewiston, he said.

“We may get one a year, or one every other year,” Doeringsfeld said. “They’re 300 feet long and 76 feet wide – about 100 feet longer and twice as wide as most of the barges we handle.”

It will take four days to load them, he said.

Spence may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 791-9168.