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Whales Blamed for Port Delay

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The $800-million Port of Anchorage expansion project is more than a year behind schedule because of rules that limit crews from working in the water when any of the roughly 300 local beluga whales are within a mile of the construction zone. As originally engineered by Seattle-based PND Engineers Inc., with construction oversight by Anchorage-based Integrated Concepts and Research Corp., a high-energy impact hammer was to be used to drill steel sheets into three hard-seabed areas for the earth-filled open-cell sheet-pile configuration. However, due to the whales, crews were forced to use a vibratory-hammer method instead. The vibratory hammer apparently damaged the piles designed to hold back the new gravel and earth. The port now is looking at new bids from about 10 firms to restart the drilling process and redo portions of the damaged work. “If we had more money, we could pick up the year we lost,” says Bill Sheffield, the port’s director and former governor of Alaska.

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