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Blue Goose Takes a Gander at Port St. Lucie Plant Canal

Tue July 29, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Jeff Brooks

Long before Blue Goose Construction started to repair the intake/discharge canals at the Port St. Lucie, Fla., nuclear power plant, the toughest part of the job already was complete.

Just landing the contract from Florida Power & Light (FPL), which operates the nuclear plant, had Blue Goose folks breathing easier.

“We did a lot of work putting presentations together, graphics together, depicting how our process would work and the equipment we had selected going into the bidding process and the selection process,” said Blue Goose General Manager Larry Tarr. “That was a big help to us.

“We had 3-D animation to show how some of the processes work. We pointed out some of the challenges that we saw during the job, but we also gave them solutions to those challenges and I think the folks at the power company really appreciated that we put so much thought into it and really understood the job.

“Getting the job was the biggest challenge and then there was the gut check to make it all work. That type of thought, experience and resources all came together and worked out very nicely.”

Located on a barrier island off Florida’s central east coast in Jensen Beach, the twin St. Lucie reactors are about 8 mi. upwind of the town of Port St. Lucie. The plant has been in operation for approximately 40 years and the mile-long, horseshoe-shaped intake/discharge canal runs from the plant to the Atlantic Ocean. In recent years, hurricanes have taken a toll on the canal, and combined with its age, renovations were much needed.

Enter Ft. Pierce, Fla.-based Blue Goose, which is teaming with Underwater Engineering Services of Port St. Lucie.

“The project we’re involved in is repairing the intake and discharge canals from the Atlantic Ocean to the nuclear power plant,” Tarr said. “We’ve gone in to regrade the slopes and put them back to their original configuration. Underwater Engineering is installing articulated concrete block mats.”

While landing the contract was tough, the challenges didn’t stop there, said Tarr. Dealing with government red tape and complying with nuclear-type work regulations added a whole other dimension to the project for Blue Goose, which specializes in these types of projects, environmental work and levee construction.

Though they weren’t the low bidder for the job, Blue Goose had worked with FPL previously and Tarr believes their presentation “sold the whole idea on how we were going to do it and they could relate to the issues we were talking to them about.”

Some of those issues include working on barges in the canal and from the levee banks and being accurate with the grading to within one-tenth of a foot. And then they had to make sure not to harm protected sea turtles that call the canal home.

To help with the accuracy issues, Blue Goose called on Topcon Positioning Systems, an Arizona-based GPS manufacturer.

“Topcon was a facilitator to help us understand what we needed,” Tarr said. “They gave us a customized screen so the operator can not only see one grade line, which is typical of most GPS grade systems, but we can see two grade lines — the existing cross-section and the proposed cross-section. The catch is it has to be very precise.”

George Smith, Topcon’s senior manager of corporate communications, said Blue Goose used Topcon’s X-63 machine control, “which tells you where the blade is even underwater to get the absolute perfect grade they had to have on this job.”

That’s not the only specialty equipment Tarr’s using on site. They’ve got a 100-ton (91 t) John Deere 850D long-reach excavator with a 95-ft. (29 m) boom.

“It’s very, very good, we’re very pleased with it,” Tarr said. “It’s quite a machine.”

Blue Goose owns all its equipment, which is plentiful for this project.

“We also bought a John Deere 450 with a 75-foot boom and we have a fleet of 60-footers,” Tarr said. “Long-reach machines have been one of our specialties. We have a lot of experience with that. The slopes are about 135 feet long and even the 95-footer wouldn’t reach all the way down so we still had to have excavators and barges working from the water, which is about 30 feet deep.”

Tarr said they have a couple of barges, loaders, dozers, mini-excavators and some track trucks on site. Because the area, which is fenced and highly secure, is inaccessible to large dump trucks, Tarr said they’re using smaller track trucks to move material.

“We also designed our own grading-type bucket to use underwater,” Tarr said, “because that’s a special application, trying to move materials underwater. The buckets are about 10 feet wide and we’re not only able to move material and place material, we can grade with them.”

The two-year project started in September and at this point, Tarr said, “we’re further along than we thought we’d be. We’re ahead of schedule and everything is looking good at this point.”

While Blue Goose is doing the majority of the work, they have a small company doing some sod work and ROD Logistics is providing the fill material. Underwater Engineers Service is laying the concrete mats and they’ll use about 1.3 million sq. ft. (121,000 sq m) of articulated concrete block mat.

“Wherever we can’t use existing material we have to import it,” Tarr said. “That’s a mix of 70 percent stone and 30 percent coarse sand. It has to be mixed off site and hauled in.”

Because it’s a highly protected area managed by FPL, there’s no impact on the surrounding community. Tarr said nearby beaches aren’t impacted “because it all goes underground about 1,500 feet into the ocean.”

Once complete, Tarr said, not only will the canals operate more efficiently, there will be additional protection from future storms.

“It ensures that if there’s another hurricane or storm, they’ll have another level of protection to ensure the water intake/discharge won’t be impacted by erosion or storm surge,” Tarr said.

Smith, who said the project is “a pretty impressive operation,” believes it’s a one-of-a-kind job.

“As far as we can tell, and we checked with Europe, Australia, there’s never been anything quite like it,” Smith said.”

Not bad, considering getting the job was the hard part. CEG

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