Started in the spring of 2015, the nearly $18 million rehabilitation of Dock C and D in the Superior Bay reached a fever pitch this week with contractors assembling the dock wall, the rail spur that will access the 26-acre dock and more.
"There were more interesting activities happening today than we've had any day since this thing started," said Jim Sharrow, director of port planning and resiliency with the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, on Wednesday. "It was much more than just your average day."
Concrete pours starting at 5 a.m. and running into the afternoon totaled 1,000 cubic yards as work continued on the dock's centerpiece - a 700-foot long and 60-foot wide heavy-lift dock surface that will be used to support heavy cargo transfers.
With four of six concrete pours now complete, major concrete work that began last winter with the pouring of the new roll-on/roll-off dock near Helberg Drive is expected to finish in about a month, Sharrow said.
The whole dock is 1,600 feet long and contractors from Lunda Construction of Black River Falls, Wis., continue to tie back the sheet pilings that make up the dock wall. Much of the length of dock is being anchored into the old foundation of the grain elevators. Where there is no foundation, a second steel-sheet piling wall has been installed for anchoring, Sharrow explained.
In the slip itself, Veit and Co., of Duluth, is in the process of performing the dredging that will make the dockside slip some 30 feet deep. Sharrow said dredging is 10 percent completed. All told, 62,000 cubic yards of material will be dredged from the slip. Some of the material will be used as sandy fill on the site, some will be used as soil on city projects and some of it will go to the construction industry.
Back on dock, earth movers from Northern Interstate Construction, of South Range, Wis., are making progress on ground work - filling and setting the final grade on the dock, which is expected to be used for storage of things such as wind power blades. There are fabrics and grids being layered near the top of the surface to reinforce the soil before a finishing layer of Class 5 gravel is overlaid, Sharrow explained.
Finally, the rail work is being conducted by Canadian Pacific Railway on side of Helberg Drive opposite from the dock. Last year, the Port Authority reached a dual-operations agreement with two railways, including BNSF. Canadian Pacific is busy installing the initial switch and first section of rail, before Port Authority contractors take it across Helberg Drive and into the dock.
The Port Authority, said spokesperson Adele Yorde, is not making any plans to receive cargoes in 2016 in case the dock is not ready to receive anything by October's scheduled completion.
The dock is expected to be ready for the 2017 shipping campaign - one Sharrow said "is setting up to be a busy year."
But with the shipping season extending into January, there is a never-say-never approach.
Said Yorde, "We're always hoping for that one last shipment that might not be on the books yet."