News from Patrick Flynn

Port committee update, sixth edition

As mentioned previously, I’ve been awaiting a letter from the US Army Corps of Engineers regarding their review of the Port of Anchorage’s expansion project.  The letter has arrived (I was cc’d), and here’s how it read:

District Chief, Construction & Operations

Ms. Susan Lee, Program Manager

U.S. Department of Transportation

Maritime Administration

1200 New Jersey Ave. SE (#W21-201)

Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Ms. Lee:

This letter addresses comments made by a U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration contractor regarding reviews the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) conducted on the Barge Berths and the North Extension areas during our evaluation of Department of the Army (DA) Permit Application Number POA-2003-502-N.  At the October 14, 2010, Municipality of Anchorage Port Committee meeting your contractor, Integrated Concepts & Research Corporation (ICRC), stated the Corps had conducted a complete independent technical review of the project and approved it along with subsequent design modifications.

Special Condition VI(1) to DA Permit POA-2003-502-N required the Port of Anchorage to provide both structural stability analysis and design modifications for the sheet pile wall adjacent to the Federal dredging project.  This requirement was to ensure USACE could safely dredge in front of the new dock without impacting its structural integrity.  The USACE Engineering Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, MS, and my staff conducted the review in that regard.  The review was not a comprehensive independent technical review that is typically done by a sponsor of a port expansion project of this magnitude and complexity.  USACE was not a sponsor of the project, and our review only addressed the structural and seismic related components that could be affected by USACE dredging operations.  Additionally, USACE has not reviewed any design modifications or construction contract documents related to the dock construction.

We will provide further documentation of this mater should anyone request it.  We still await the designs of the subsequent phases to review as stipulated in Special Condition VI(1) of the permit.  If you have any questions, contact me directly.  For detailed information regarding any of our review documents you may contact Allen Churchill in my Operations Branch at (907) 753-2753.



Reinhard W. Koenig



As with many things, there are different ways to interpret this missive.  My take is this; yes, the Corps did some review; no, it was not comprehensive; yes, the Corps has more information it can share; no, the Corps won’t take responsibility if design flaws emerge.  Complicating matters is the disagreement between port officials and the city’s Geotechnical Advisory Commission over what constitutes an “independent technical review,” with the former expressing concerns that existing reviews were performed by those paid with project funds (though it’s not easy to discern who in the scientific community might provide such a review for free, or how a review would be paid for otherwise).  Nevertheless, there’s more to be discussed so I’ve scheduled the next Port committee meeting for Wednesday, January 12, at 1:30 pm in room 155 of City Hall.  The agenda is as follows:

  1. Discussion of matters related to dock load capacity
  2. Port of Anchorage Quality Assurance/Quality Control program
  3. Corps review of dock design (hopefully a joint presentation from ICRC, the port expansion contractor, and the Corps)

I’ve asked my colleagues if there are other items they’d like to add, so there may be more, but that’s what I know for now.

Happy New Year!



This contribution was made on Saturday, 01. January 2011 at 22:51 and was published under the category Port committee. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. Interesting that ACOE says they did not review either the design docs, or the design modifications. Can you fill us in on the scope of the design modifications, and their effects on the construction costs, and the timing of the project?

    Comment: Bob – 02. January 2011 @ 10:09 pm

  2. Pat,

    Thanks for sharing.

    It sounds kind of ominous that: “The review was not a comprehensive independent technical review that is typically done by a sponsor of a port expansion project of this magnitude and complexity.“


    Why not?

    Rudy Lachinski

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 04. January 2011 @ 5:50 pm

  3. Wow………sounds nasty Rudy. Can’t believe this mess is getting worse, but it sure sounds like it from down here. The Port needs to hire more of those college boys. Hope Pat keeps on these guys; hate to see good money heaped on bad…………..Moose

    Comment: Moose Johnson – 04. January 2011 @ 8:11 pm

  4. Pat,

    I have a few comments on your agenda for the upcoming meeting:

    1. Dock capacity – This should not be an issue. You see this is an open cell sheet pile dock. They are load unlimited docks. I read all about this on the internet. They have several unique features; they are incredibly cost effective (about 1/3 to 1/5 the cost of any other dock), they are incredibly stable, they are virtually maintenance free and, as mentioned earlier, they are load unlimited. This all has to do with the shape of the dock. The curved surface actually deflects a part of the earth’s magnetic and gravitational field. This causes earthquakes to roll right off of them, corrosion to go away and allows them to support loads that (under the effects of normal gravity) other docks can’t match. A real smart guy named Dr. Nottingham figured this all out. If I were you I would just take this off the agenda.

    2. QC – Well I guess there have been a few small problems down there. However, they probably wouldn’t even know about them if it wasn’t for the diligent observations of the crack team you have working on this. I would support giving your administration for the port a QC medal for this. Not only that, but the rework will pump $$$10s of millions of federal $$$$ dollars right into the old local economy (The last I heard it was $40 million and two years’ worth of work). Yes sir keep up the great work on the QC!

    3. Corps review – What the heck is wrong with these guys? It was a review that wasn’t a good review? Who needs the Corps and the GAC anyway? Do they add anything? What do they know? They just get in the way. I know that some poor uniformed fools have raised silly questions about stability and earthquakes and all. But as I said above this is an open cell sheet pile dock and it has a lot of incredible features. I think they are just trying to sabotage the whole thing by casting doubts and are trying to take our free federal money away from us. I would just do away with all this review stuff. We don’t need it. I would see if Sheffield could get his buddies in the US Government to order the Corps to rubber stamp the plans and then tell them to sit down and shut up. You could do the same with the GAC. Just issue a decree or something forcing them to acknowledge the outstanding features of the open cell dock and then go away and mind their own business.

    Well that’s my 2 cents for today. Keep up the good work.

    Rudy Lachinski

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 06. January 2011 @ 2:44 pm

  5. Lighten up Rudy,

    I like Pat’s agenda, at least someone is trying to get to the bottom of this mess. I think Pat can see though the BS down there at the Port. I certainly don’t want the Corps rubber-stamping a pile dog doo, and it sounds to me like they haven’t. I don’t know much about docks, but if the thing is falling over while it’s being built it doesn’t sound real good to me. One one thing I learned along the way is that if you throw enough money at something you can usually make it work; I am sure Uncle Sam hasn’t run out of ink yet. I wonder if there is a some kind of futures or derivatives market on this we could short?


    Comment: Randy Mann – 06. January 2011 @ 9:39 pm

  6. Randy, I guess you’ve been hiding under a rock out there in the woods of Kenai. Didn’t you hear? Uncle Sam is out of money! So, you can bet that the Muni will be chasing you down for tax dollars when this thing blows!

    Comment: Shirley McCraken – 07. January 2011 @ 7:44 am

  7. Pat,

    I was down at F Street Saturday night and saw my buddy again. Boy did I learn some interesting things! Know how I said Mr. Sheffield should slap those guys from the Corps around a little and tell them to stop all this stuff about independent testing and all? Well guess what…. he already did that!

    You see, according to my buddy, a few years ago the Corps was all set to really test the daylights out of the open cell. They were going to put one in some type of centrifuge which would whirl it around to simulate the right earth pressure for the model and then they were going to shake it like in an earthquake. Well Sheffield put the kibosh on that all right. I guess they were worried that it might splatter all over the walls of the test center down in Mississippi. They were worried that if the test didn’t pan out then all the magic would run out of the elixir. After all what is a magic elixir without any magic?

    Well anyway according to my buddy the only independent review that they will ever do is the one they do themselves so that they can control the outcome.

    That all sounds great to me. Those earthquakes only happen every 100 or 200 years or something like that. Let’s stop wasting time and hurry up and build this thing. The sooner it gets done the sooner we can start collecting revenue from all the new users.

    Keep up the good work.

    Ruddy Lachinski

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 10. January 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  8. Ruddy, Ruddy, Ruddy…………………have faith baby. You’re getting yourself all lathered up there. Relax, you’ll live longer. That centrifuge thing sounds wild, do they sell rides on that? I can understand why the port didn’t want the Corps to use a centrifuge, sounds dangerous to me; someone could hurt. I am confident Pat will get to the bottom of this, he seems like a real pit bull to me and he must be Irish with a name like that. Nobody’s going to pull the wool over an Irishman’s eyes. Next time you’re down there at F Street try a double Tanqueray Martini with olives, up; the world will look much better…………Happy New Year Ruddy……………..Moose

    Comment: Moose Johnson – 11. January 2011 @ 7:56 am

  9. Pat,

    I saw a reference to all those users and the new revenue we can expect. Who could doubt that a growing city like Anchorage will need all this new dock space? But, still, it seems like it just might be a good idea to add an agenda item so we can hear from some of those users to at least find out who they are. Or are their identies secret? That would also help to quash the concerns of some of the skeptics who think the Muni taxpayers might wind up getting socked with a great big bill if things don’t go as planned, i.e. if costs go through the roof and/or the thing starts to fall into the inlet.

    One more question if I may: Are they really planning to tear out the existing dock before the bugs are worked out of this new fangled open cell setup? That would seem to be kind of risky, to say the least. Or could the ships just abandon Anchorage and go to Seward or Whittier, or truckers could even drive most of the stuff up the Alcan?


    Comment: arcadia – 11. January 2011 @ 9:06 am

  10. Joe,

    What happened at the meeting? Did you get those boys all tuned up? Are we good to go? Can we expect smooth sailing from here on out?


    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 14. January 2011 @ 7:48 am

  11. Boy! Not only is all the elixir running out of this project, all the fun is too!

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 18. January 2011 @ 10:13 pm

  12. Pat,

    What do you hear from Boondoggle Billy and the boys down at the Port these days? Ever since the ADN article, the silence has been deafening. When are you going gather them all up under the big top for the next act?

    Rudy Lachinski

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 01. February 2011 @ 10:44 am

  13. The silence is deafening Rudy. Wonder if ADN is following up on their past story?
    Pat, what’s the word at your level; is anyone going to prison on this puppy?


    Comment: Randy Mann – 02. February 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  14. Randy,

    Do Not Disturb. They are all in the back room trying to turn BS into rocket fuel. There is no shortage of raw materials!

    Rudy Lachinski

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 03. February 2011 @ 9:26 am

  15. Rudy………….I think you’re on to something, buddy. I thought I smelled a foul odor coming from the direction of the Port. But if they do turn it into rocket fuel it might help our energy situation. You’re right on about the supply of raw material.

    Who you betting on in the Super Bowl? I got a couple of “C” notes on those Steelers; boy they got some mean guys on that team.


    Comment: Randy Mann – 04. February 2011 @ 4:00 pm

  16. Randy………….I’ll take some of that action, how many points are you giving?

    I am surprised that ADN hasn’t done a follow-up on that article they did a few weeks ago. Of course it took them long enough to figure out that some very strange things were happening at the port. Is the governor still at the helm there? That’s a nasty situation they’ve gotten themselves into. But I see they found a budget surplus up there in Anchorage so maybe they can use some of that to pay for the problems at the Port?

    Give me a shout on the game tomorrow Randy, I’d love to take some of your hard earned money!


    Comment: Moose Johnson – 05. February 2011 @ 11:32 am

  17. Randy,

    The smell is methane wafting off the pile of BS in the back room of the port office. The political fermentation process is the first step toward turning it into rocket fuel. Just standby Randy, you will see, they are about to produce a miracle!

    I hear they will be playing football in the snow down there in Dallas. Poor Steelers won’t know what to do in those conditions. My money is on Green Bay.


    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 05. February 2011 @ 12:52 pm

  18. Pat,

    I ran into my buddy down at the Peanut Farm on Sunday during the Super Bowl. Great game. Anyway he went off about the old port project again. Man he just keeps going and going. This time it was all about the independent review stuff. I don’t know what the big deal is but he said the current port project is like a hospital claiming to have a cure for cancer but not letting anyone like the FDA test it. He said it’s like having a relative in the hospital and putting them on an unproven drug and nothing else. If the drug doesn’t work, the relative dies. He said the Municipality is betting the farm on this sheet pile dock without the normal reviews and testing like the drug companies have to do before selling medicine. According to him this open cell dock has NEVER been fully tested by an independent agency and that technical peer reviews have pointed out serious flaws and risks. He says that there is way more marketing than science behind it. He went on and on about how it was supposed to save money and be done by now (I have to admit they are off by a little here), and how it is supposed to be load unlimited but isn’t and how a bunch of people think it is going to fall over in an earthquake and on and on.

    Well I don’t think HE gets it. You see that stuff is just a bunch of red tape. (To be honest I think my buddy may be a bit of a tree hugging liberal democrat anyway. Why else would he keep asking these annoying questions?) Anyway, as I have been saying all along, the REAL reason behind this thing is the ole economics 101. All us good old fashioned conservative republicans understand this. Right? It’s free! This is our free federal money and we darn sure better spend it as soon as we can. The heck with all this review stuff.

    Keep up the good work.

    Rudy Lachinski.

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 07. February 2011 @ 12:03 pm

  19. Pat,

    I saw an article in the paper about the need for more money for the port. This one had the total at $1.2 billion or about 20% over the last estimate on $1 billion. I guess they slipped in a couple of hundred million when no one was looking!

    Here are a couple of real smart assed questions:

    1. How does the 20% increase affect the project budget?
    2. Does the $200 million cost increase have an effect on the project business plan?

    HA HA HA HA! Good one huh? “Budget” and “Business Plan”…right!

    I told you they were smart ass questions.

    Yours truly,

    Rudy Lachinski

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 25. February 2011 @ 8:46 pm

  20. Rudy……………you’re hilarious…………so’s this project. Hard to believe supposedly smart people are still supporting is ridiculous project……… wonder this country of ours is on the slippery slope………………Cheers from the hinterland……..Moose

    Comment: Moose Johnson – 26. March 2011 @ 10:47 am

  21. At this point in time I think we need to demand that old Boondoggle Billy (AKA Bill Sheffield) produce the miracle dock that he has been bragging about for 10 years or give us our money back.

    I don’t care how many sphincter muscles are involved, I want a miracle dock or my money back!

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 04. April 2011 @ 2:13 pm

  22. Rudy……………..give it up baby; there ain’t no miracle docks. You got a hotel guy running a port up there; what do you expect? Looks like Pat has dropped the ball on this lemon too. Cheer up Rudy, the fish will be running soon at which point who cares about a flipping dock that doesn’t work……………..Moose

    Comment: Moose Johnson – 04. April 2011 @ 3:14 pm

  23. Rudy,

    Moose is right. This thing is bigger than us. Looks like ADN gave up on this puppy too. They wouldn’t know a real story if it hit them in the face. Now they’re chasing this prison fiasco. It’s all related. Egos. Prison, Mat-Su Ferry, Port of Anchorage.


    Comment: Randy Mann – 04. April 2011 @ 3:19 pm

  24. Now, it’s 9/19/2011:
    Mr. Sheffield has not been indicted regarding the missing money, the flawed desgn, negligent homicide of a worker, etc. etc. racketeering……………….


    It’s because we live in a culture that is quickly degenerating into a class war of the Ultra Rich vs. the rest of us.

    Comment: Before fences – 19. September 2011 @ 11:25 am

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