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Savannah harbor deepening's $100M bid protest denied

The federal Government Accountability Office has rejected a protest from an unsuccessful bidder that threatened to delay the Savannah Harbor deepening project.

At issue is a $99.6 million mitigation contract the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded in late July to CDM Constructors Inc. of Maitland, Fla., for a dissolved oxygen system.

North Carolina-based Crowder Construction Company, which bid about $7 million less, filed a protest in August. Crowder challenged the Army's evaluation of both proposals and of its "best-value tradeoff," which allows a higher bidder to win if it offers better services.

The Army received four proposals and narrowed them to Crowder and CDM. While more expensive, CDM outscored Crowder on three of four factors used to determine the best value. The firms tied on past performance, but CDM rated higher for experience, small business participation and for its proposed schedule for the work.

Crowder challenged the agency's evaluation as unreasonable and unequal and contrary to the terms set out in the proposal request.

But the GAO sided with the Corps.

“On this record, we find no basis to sustain Crowder’s objection to the (Army Corps’) best value tradeoff decision. The protest is denied,” GAO General Counsel Susan A. Poling concluded in an 11-page decision.

The oxygen injection systems will be at two spots on the Savannah River, one adjacent to Plant McIntosh in Effingham County and the other on Hutchinson Island.

Fourteen two-story devices called Speece cones will be installed to blend oxygen into the water before it’s returned to the river. The extra oxygen is needed to make up for oxygen depletion caused by dredging the river an additional 5 feet to a depth of 47 feet.

The successful operation of the Hutchinson Island dissolved oxygen plant is critical to harbor deepening. That plant must be complete, operational and shown to be capable of mitigating dissolved oxygen impacts expected from the deepening before dredging the inner harbor can begin.

The GAO ruled on the bid protest more quickly than the expected Nov. 23 deadline, issuing its decision Oct. 8. That freed the Corps to get the process rolling again.

“On Oct. 21 we gave the contractor (CDM Constructors Inc.) notice to proceed,” said Corps spokesman Billy Birdwell.

The construction and related services include system installation, on-site oxygen generation, intake/discharge piping systems, pumps, electrical service, concrete pads, access roads, instrumentation, remote monitoring, security and perimeter fencing.

Preliminary work is moving forward but as far as “turning dirt” no exact date has been set, Birdwell said.

More information about the protest, including a link to the decision summary, is available at the GAO website at: http://www.gao.gov/docket/B-411928.1.

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