Marine Construction Update

Power Engineering builders at the Indian Basin Waterfront Park project in San Francisco. Photo: Power Engineering.

Whether it’s expanding marinas in Southern California or shoring up the structural integrity of dock structures, West Coast maritime heavy civic engineering and construction companies have been playing a major role in keeping essential marine structures active and growing. 

And while many of the projects are specific to the West Coast, these firms are also extending their reach to other parts of the U.S. and overseas.

Here is a look at some ongoing and planned maritime construction projects being performed by West Coast-based companies.

Power Engineering Construction

Northern California-based Power Engineering, a major West Coast civil and marine engineering construction firm, has been at work on a number of projects.

One of the company’s most recent notable projects was the expansion of Balboa Marina in Newport Beach, Calif., which involved the addition of 25% more private slips and a new public dock.

Aside from installing new docks and utilities, the project also called for demolishing and replacing an existing seawall, including 36 deep soil mixing columns and two king piles for footing support, according to Power.

The company secured the work contract after a recommendation from Bair Island Marina project stakeholders. Power had previously worked on that project’s seawall and marina upgrades.

Power Engineering’s Balboa Marina expansion project in Newport Beach, Calif. Photo: Power Engineering.

A challenge to the Balboa project was the location and its proximity to residential areas, so Power adjusted its construction schedule to curb noise disturbance. The company limited impact pile driving activities to just one day a week.

To keep the project moving forward, the company used a jetting technique that allows piles to be driven quietly into the sand to a depth of five feet to tip elevation. These piles could then stay plumb until the designated day when the driving process could continue for installation to their intended depth, the company said.

Power Engineering has also been involved in the Indian Basin Waterfront Park project in San Francisco—an effort to turn a post-industrial brownfield in an underserved community into a 10-acre waterfront park.

As the project’s marine contractor, the company is tasked with fortifying the shoreline, installing deep soil foundations for near-shore structures and building a 180-foot-long seawall that can protect against future sea level rise. 

A pair of expansive cast-in-place concrete piers also are being constructed, along with the installation of a fishing dock with an aluminum float and gangway and wood decking. 

This blend of heavy civil and marine components not only contributes to shoreline sustainability but also supports a vital connection between the community and the water that was previously inaccessible, according to Power.

The work called for the installation of 92 square concrete piles, ranging from 24 inches to 16 inches square.

On Day 1 of pile driving, the company encountered an unforeseen challenge: a dense sand lens under a thick layer that had been placed on top of native soil, a crucial part of the site’s remediation efforts.

This made the original pile installation plan infeasible because removing the soil under the remediation sand cap was not allowed so the company used a larger impact hammer in conjunction with the original means and methods. 

With less than a month to go in the permitted in-water work window, the construction team quickly developed an alternate installation plan. Getting the work done meant extending the required hours by 30%, but Power Engineering’s crews banded together and worked double shifts until they returned to the original schedule.

Another notable project Power is involved with is the Lookout Slough Tidal Habitat Restoration in Dixon, Calif.

Led by the Department of Water Resources and Ecosystem Investment Partners, the project seeks to turn 3,400 acres of reserved wetlands in Solano County into a tidal wetland habitat and a flood protection system. The project includes the building of new levees, large-scale habitat restoration and systematic breaching of a series of levees.

Power is handling marine construction, which includes installing nine temporary sheet pile cofferdams (about 3,000 linear feet) to allow for controlled levee breaches. Concurrently with the earthwork, Power is removing all sheet piles so water can flow freely into the tidal wetland.

The project timeline spans three environmental windows between 2022 and 2024. 

The floating construction site consists of a pair of “Flexifloat” barge assemblies, a 110-ton crawler crane, a 62-foot long-reach excavator and multiple material barges.

Power used its 250-ton derrick barge, the D.B. Pacific, to lift and set the heavy equipment over a bridge that blocked access to the job site and posed a navigational challenge.

The project is expected to enhance ecological diversity and flood resilience and contribute to sustainable water management in the region.

Curtin Maritime

Long Beach, Calif.-based Curtin Maritime has been involved in several major projects over the past year, one of the more high-profile ones being in Houston, where the company is doing dredging work on the Houston Ship Channel Improvement Project.

The work calls for dredging about 4.175 million cubic yards of the ship channel with a deposit of materials into the Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site. It would widen the current 530-foot-wide channel into a new 700-foot-wide channel.

Work also includes removing about 1.5 million cubic yards of dredge material that’s intended to be used to help finish building oyster reef mitigation pads at the Dollar Reef Oyster Reef Mitigation Site and San Leon Oyster Reef Mitigation Site, according to the company.

Curtin also secured a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers contract to work on the San Juan Harbor Construction and Maintenance Dredging project this past summer. The work encompasses building and maintaining dredging in specific areas of the federal navigation channel and berthing areas under Puerto Rico Port Authority jurisdiction. 

When the project is done, the channel is expected to be broadened by 100 feet, making it a total of 450 feet, according to Curtin.

This past summer, the company worked on the Treadwell Re-Abandonment Project, a major environmental restoration project at Summerland Beach in California’s Santa Barbara County.

This is a part of an effort to deal with long-term oil seepage from offshore wellheads, remnants of what had been California’s booming oil and gas industry a century earlier. Even though they have been long abandoned, the wells continued to leak because of outdated capping methods, Curtin said. 

With California State Lands Commission oversight, 2H Offshore used Curtin’s derrick barge, the DB Salta Verde, to help re-abandon Treadwell Pier oil wells 1 and 5. Curtin and 2H engineers helped to design and deploy a cofferdam and steel tubes to encapsulate the leaking wells during capping operations to contain further hydrocarbon release, according to Curtin.

Pacific Pile and Marine

Pacific Pile and Marine, a heavy civil marine construction firm based in Seattle, continues its work supporting projects in the U.S. and in Canada.

One involves an effort to rebuild Pier 58 in Seattle under a $34.5 million contract, according to the company’s March 10 announcement. The old pier was removed in 2020-2021.

Last fall, the general contractor started removing the rest of the old creosote piles, putting in 76 of the 120 steel replacement pilings and placing precast concrete caps on the steel piles, according to the company, which had brought in a large barge-mounted crane called Pacific Lifter to install the caps. 

When completed, the new 48,000-square-foot pier is expected to feature an opening nearshore to bolster the salmon habitat, a new children’s playground, a multipurpose plaza and other community amenities.

The new pier is also expected to include a longtime fixture of the former pier, a fountain designed by artists James FitzGerald and Margaret Tomkins. First installed in 1974, the fountain was recovered and restored after a section of the old pier sank. It is expected to be located at the new pier’s southeast corner.

Pacific Pile has said that it expects to be done with its work by September. The Seattle Parks Department and Friends of Waterfront Seattle are expected to manage the new pier as partners. 

In late 2022, the company also completed the demolition of Pier 63, which closed in 2017, as part of its contract. It involved the removal of 894 timber piles and almost 50,000 square feet of decking, according to Pacific Pile.

The rebuilding project is part of a larger $756 million effort that started in 2010 to renovate and enhance the waterfront.

Global Diving and Salvage

The West Coast marine construction and support services provider, which has offices in Alaska, California and Seattle, over the past year announced a number of projects it has secured.

In December, Global said it has been hired to do the underwater work needed to build a new sea water intake structure in California, as well as connect the new structure onto the existing water intake.

Building the intake necessitated many layout and elevation checks to be sure that the large structure, which was more than 100 feet long, stayed to strict specifications, according to the company.

“Every measurement and adjustment is critical to ensure that the structure is built accurately, with the margin for error next to none,” according to Global, which expects the project to continue into 2024.

Global is also involved in a major contract in Texas, where it’s helping install a pair of lake tap intake towers.

The company has been hired to put in multilevel screens within the deepwater intake structure, which is expected to help provide drinking water to communities.

“Global’s role on this project is logistically complex,” the company explained in a statement. “Our team not only works both above and below water, but we are also providing support to every trade involved in the heavy civil engineering of this intake.”

For example, closely working with the main contractor and survey and pile driving crews resulted in successfully setting the almost 130-inch caissons on location while “maintaining the extremely high tolerances,” according to Global.

Also, a floating wedge-shaped structure that Global built to help migrating salmon and steelhead navigate past Hood Canal Bridge was deployed last spring. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said the bridge threatens the viability of the steelhead population.

In late 2022, Global was hired by the Seattle-based non-profit salmon recovery group Long Live the Kings to build a $1.6 million floating wedge-shaped structure called a fillet that’s designed and engineered by Kleinschmidt Associates and Art Anderson Associates, fabricated at Pacific Netting Products in Kingston, and transported by Boyer Logistics.

More than 20 feet tall and 85 feet long, the fillet is installed at water level “to fill in the 90-degree corner at the southeast end of the bridge,” according to Long Live the Kings. 

“This project represents a significant step forward in preserving and restoring our natural ecosystems, and we are honored to play a role in this effort,” Global Diving said.  

KAREN ROBES MEEKS, a Southern California native, is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years’ writing experience. Her articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register and Long Beach Press-Telegram, where she worked as a reporter for nearly 14 years. Her work has been recognized by the California News Publishers Association, the Associated Press News Executives Council and the Los Angeles Press Club. She can be reached at