(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
Once a protest is filed, federal law requires work to stop until the corps reviews it and reaches a decision. It's not known how long the review will take. A similar protest filed with the corps for emergency repairs made to the levee last fall delayed the project for weeks.
"It's necessary that it be a very thorough process. We'll work as expeditiously as possible," said Jim Pogue, spokesman for the corps' Memphis District.
A&M Engineering & Environmental Services of Tulsa, Okla., is protesting the award of $20 million in contracts to three other companies that were ready to begin work to restore the first breach site to a height of 55 feet.
Young's General Contracting of Poplar Bluff, Mo.; Kingridge Enterprises Inc. of Little Rock, Ark.; and Harold Coffey Construction Co. of Hickman, Ky., had already been given a notice from the corps to proceed on the project.
A&M is protesting the type of contract the government selected -- a multiple award task order contract -- and the government's evaluation of its proposal, Pogue said.
David Cooper, spokesman for A&M, declined to discuss the bid protest, he said, out of professional courtesy to the corps. The company has done work for the corps in other locations, including Oklahoma, he said.
Multiple award task order contracts are a little unusual, Pogue said, but have been used on large projects, including repairs in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
"For a really huge job like this, it allows us to bring in several different contractors, and each one of those bid on specific task orders" within the contract, Pogue said.
Only the bids for the first of six task orders have been awarded at this point. Bids are being accepted now on the second task order, he said. The first three orders are for work to bring each breach site to 55 feet. The final three orders are to bring each breach site to their original height of 62.5 feet.
The corps breached the Birds Point levee last spring in an effort to lower the water level on the Mississippi River. The plan also flooded 130,000 acres of farmland and several dozen homes.
Now that a protest has been filed, contracting staff in Memphis will review A&M's bid package and then make a recommendation to legal counsel with the corps' Mississippi Valley Division in Vicksburg, Miss. After that, the division legal counsel will make a determination on the merits of the protest, Pogue said.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson said that while she understands the need for openness and fairness when government contracts are awarded, she is concerned about any further delay on the project.
"I hope the situation will be rectified quickly so we can continue the work necessary to restore our levees to their fully authorized heights," she said. "I remain committed to this goal, and I expect the corps to move at full speed to accomplish the mission for the people of Mississippi and New Madrid counties."