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Pier 8 Replacement―A New Team & Approach

Two derrick barges working on a Naval base.
Derrick barges NORSEMAN and VIKING alongside the Pier 8 replacement project site at Naval Base San Diego, California, while crews place concrete for the new cast-in-place deck.

Manson is no stranger to Naval Base San Diego (NBSD). Over the last 20 years, Manson has played a vital role in the upgrades of the base’s waterfront facilities – completing three major pier replacement projects for Piers 10, 12, and 8. We owe this streak of success to Manson’s team of talented personnel and our key partners – Synergy Electric, WSP, A.O. Reed, and Matrix Environmental – who continue to find innovative ways to execute projects faster, safer, and under budget.

From the outset, the approach to the Pier 8 Replacement project was different from previous similar projects at NBSD. The job was originally intended for Manson’s Southern California regional office, but due to a significant increase in project load in the area, roles were shifted. Ryan King, Manson senior vice president and West Coast regional manager, stepped in to help, bringing along experienced team members with fresh eyes.

Matt LaRue and Ellen Heile had previously worked out of Manson’s Northern California operations in Richmond, but they both jumped at the opportunity to be involved in such a high-profile project. With over 10 years at Manson, working on jobs that included dredging in the Gulf region and construction at the Middle Harbor Redevelopment project at the Port of Long Beach, Pier 8 would be Matt’s first time taking the helm as project manager at NBSD. For Ellen, the project would be a key shift from her role as a field engineer at the Kiewit/Manson JV Replace / Upgrade of Pier 2 at Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO), where she had been assigned since starting with Manson after college.

While still in the early stages of her career, Ellen saw the importance of working in different settings, with different people, on different projects. She viewed the Pier 8 project as a real learning opportunity. “Driving eight hours from the Bay to San Diego was a little tough in the beginning,” Ellen says of her temporary commute from San Francisco, “but learning from experienced leadership and craft was 100% worth it.” Ellen eventually relocated to San Diego.

A marine construction crew attending a safety meeting.
The Pier 8 crew ready to take on the day after their morning safety meeting.

Finalization of the Pier 8 project team meant bringing in Manson personnel from coast to coast. To maximize the team’s talent, members across Manson’s regions were pulled onto the project because of their invaluable skills and understanding of their respective roles.

A marine construction project team posing for a photo.
Crews taking the time to "hang loose" in their Hawaiian shirts at the Pier 8 Replacement project.

Long Beach Labor Foreman Arturo Alvarez brought a unique set of skills and experience, having worked on NBSD’s Piers 10 and 12 and offering more than 20 years of experience at Manson. Kurt Hinkle joined from Seattle as general superintendent, bringing nearly 40 years of professional experience as well as previous work on Pier 12. Project Engineer Jack Fernandez came from Manson’s Gulf & East Coast dredging group – his addition to the civil engineering team a unique, valuable transition from his previous dredging role.

“In all these environments you get at Manson, you just want to work hard and put your best foot forward,” Jack says. “We’re part of a team and you just want to contribute as best as you can.”

At a glance, the heavy lifting and demolition of Pier 8 would have not been possible without the mobilization of Manson’s impressive fleet. But if you ask those who were there from the very beginning, the project was a monumental success because of the planning, collaboration, and teamwork which allowed them to see the project through.

“We’ve got good people everywhere. The management was different, but everybody is an expert in what they do,” Arturo says. “It made the job easier, and everything ran smoothly in terms of collaboration.”

Superintendent Thomas Gomez understands this more than anyone. Having worked at Manson’s Houma, Louisiana, location for over 10 years, he was brought on to help with Pier 8’s planning phase for six months. Citing his experience there as one of the best projects he’s ever worked on, Thomas requested to stay on, and, before long, he had sold his home in Louisiana and relocated his family to California.

“Two things that drew me to the project were the team at Pier 8 and, of course, the weather,” Thomas recalls. “When my wife and kids flew in to visit me in San Diego, we all fell in love with the city. We made the careful decision to sell our house in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and now we spend our time enjoying the seaside community of Point Loma.”

Pulling talented staff together for a job is one thing, but it’s their ability to devise quick solutions for the unexpected that essentially makes or breaks a project. Even with calculated planning and preparation, challenges involving design, equipment, materials, or unforeseen conditions can be expected. During the demolition phase, crews discovered an unidentified utility vault that required immediate attention because of its potential to interrupt the project’s timeline. Manson’s project team quickly gathered together with demolition subcontractor Matrix Environmental to provide a solution to the problem. With careful planning, crews demolished the vault and hauled off over a million extra pounds of solid concrete for recycling without incurring schedule delays, keeping the project on-track for an early completion. According to Matt, the skilled team members who continue to implement the company’s core values are the main reason why Manson excels in setting the standard in marine construction.

“The personnel from different regions have delivered on this project ten-fold,” Matt explains. “Just to name a few, veterans like Bill Shorey, Jack Fernandez, and future stars Ellen Heile and Lauren Terry have brought immense value during my time at NBSD.”

Riding high on the success of the Pier 8 Replacement, many of the project’s key personnel and long-time partners have returned to work on the Pier 6 Replacement project. Scheduled to begin this November – this time with Jack Fernandez leading the charge as project manager – returnees to NBSD’s Pier 6 hope to mirror the same process and enriching experience.

“I’m back at NBSD to work on the replacement of Pier 6 which will be completed in 2023,” Arturo explains. “There is more work to be done compared to Pier 8, but most of the same people are back on the job so it’s going to be way easier because we already know what to do.”

A group of people attending a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Members of the Pier 8 project team, Manson executive leadership, and NBSD personnel at the ribbon cutting ceremony symbolizing the culmination of the Pier 8 Replacement project. Left to Right: Admiral Bette Bolivar, Navy Regional Southwest Commander; Ellen Heile, Manson Field Engineer; Capt. Ted Carlson; Ryan Rhoads, Engineering Intern; Bill Shorey, Manson Senior Estimator; Chris Eagle, Manson Superintendent; John Holmes, Manson President and CEO; and Sheldon McNabb, Manson ESH Specialist.

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