Superfund contractors waiting for projects

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Kootenai County contractors vying for Superfund cleanup jobs might have to be patient.

Projects under the new ROD amendment probably won't be happening soon, according to different agency officials.

"People, they hear about money. I've had contractors calling me like crazy," said Terry Harwood, executive director of the Basin Environmental Improvement Project

Commission. "You're looking at close to $90 million in infrastructure work for these communities, funded through the Superfund process."

But don't start counting yet.

For now, Harwood tells all the contractors the same.

That contract work for Upper Basin cleanup under the new ROD amendment won't be advertised or bid out until the document is signed in July or August.

Even then, design and other preparation work for most projects will delay actual construction until next year, said Dan Meyer of the Coeur d'Alene Trust, which manages the Asarco bankruptcy settlement that funds cleanup projects.

"The big project for us all would be started in 2013," Meyer said. "It's not on hold or anything, that's just how long it takes to get up and running."

Harwood further cautioned anticipation of ongoing projects from the 2002 ROD amendment, like addressing gravel roads still contaminated by past decades of dumped mining waste.

Those projects also won't occur until next year, Harwood said, after a pilot project tests how to best contain the issue.

"I don't want (contractors) to get stirred up and then, heck, nothing happened this year," Harwood said, adding that he has already hired a contractor for the pilot project on several roads.

Highway districts and other road jurisdictions will also contract out projects on contaminated paved roads, Harwood added, though it is up to those agencies when to do the work.

He noted that he is at least hoping to contract out a Grouse Creek remedy protection project this year in Smelterville, once the ROD is signed.

The Coeur d'Alene Trust will also start some smaller stream projects this year, Meyer said.

But its major project will be mine site cleanup in the Nine Mile Canyon, he said. That will involve the development of a waste consolidation area and prepping to remove old dumping areas.

"We're doing the design on those projects now," Meyer said, adding that ground work will start in 2013. "It's a long-term project, and we're hoping it will sustain a seasonal work force for a lot of years to come."

All state-run cleanup projects will have open bidding for contracts, Harwood said, which won't be limited to local companies.

"We don't want to say they have to be a local contractor. That really tightens the process down," said Harwood, who confirmed projects will be funded by the Asarco and Hecla settlements. "If they get a monopoly, if you say only someone in Kootenai or Shoshone counties can bid on it, there's no competition."

The state will still encourage contractors to hire local workers, Harwood added.

The Coeur d'Alene Trust will do likewise for its projects, Meyer said.

"Any contractors interested in our work, when they come talk to me, and I have a lot of them, that's the one thing I stress every time," he said. "That they use a local work force."

North Wind Construction Services has benefited from several years of Superfund reclamation contracts in the Upper Basin, said President Kevin Redmond.

"It's really the foundation of our work here," Redmond said of his Kellogg-based company. "It's allowed me to grow from a staff of three people to upward of 50 people at the peak of the season. I'd say half of that growth is certainly related to the work here in the Silver Valley."

He expects projects under the new ROD amendment will boost other contractors, too, he said.

"I think it's definitely going to bump up the economy," he said. "It sounds like it's going to be a slow ramp-up program, but there's definitely a sense in the air that things are looking good."

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