4 Firms Hired to Clear Debris in Gulf Coast

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 16, 2005

The Army Corps of Engineers hired four companies yesterday to remove debris from parts of Louisiana and Mississippi damaged by Hurricane Katrina. No companies from the affected Gulf Coast were awarded a share of the $2 billion in contracts, but the winners must give preference to subcontractors in those areas, the Corps said in a statement.

The Corps of Engineers held an abbreviated competition. Firms had a few days instead of weeks to submit proposals, and 22 companies competed. One winner, Ashbritt Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla., has another Corps of Engineers debris-removal contract and will focus its attention on Mississippi. California-based Environmental Chemical Corp., Ceres Environmental Services Inc. of Minnesota, and Phillips and Jordan Inc. of Zephyrhills, Fla., will remove debris in Louisiana.

Each contract is worth up to $500 million, with an option to increase the ceiling another $500 million.

Debris removal is among the most daunting tasks facing the Corps of Engineers. "We're expecting that mission to continue to grow as FEMA receives requests from counties and seeks to increase their response to those counties," Michael Logue, a Corps of Engineers spokesman, said of Mississippi.

Meanwhile, Kellogg Brown & Root Services Inc., one of the largest contractors in the Iraq, is also working on the recovery effort. This time, KBR, a unit of Halliburton Co., is working under a Navy contract competitively awarded last year, rather than under a no-bid contract, which has been controversial for its work in Iraq.

Soon after Hurricane Katrina struck, the company was tasked with providing damage assessments on Naval facilities in New Orleans and restoring power and repairing roofs at three Mississippi Naval facilities. Then the Corps of Engineers used the Navy contract to hire the company to build a temporary morgue and to pump water from Plaquemines Parish east and west of the Mississippi River. Plaquemines is south of New Orleans.

"Due to the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina and the urgent requirements for emergency response, the Corps was authorized to tap into the existing contracts of sister services," Carol A. Sanders, a Corps of Engineers spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

In a related development, Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced a bill that would expand the role of the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction to include oversight of the spending in the Gulf Coast recovery. They said using an existing office was desirable because it can begin its work quickly.

Staff writer Griff Witte contributed to this report.

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