Another Wall Story?

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That old report card of yours...

A wall.  A wall to stop a persistent and troublesome invasion from the ‘unwanted’.  While our news has been dominated by requirements for a wall on the southern border of the US, this is a story about another wall, much, much further to the North.  And the “unwanted” entity in this case is not human, but rather, it’s the ocean.

This particular wall was requested by the US Department of Defense.  As mentioned in my prior post, “Trouble In Tin City”, US radar installations are increasingly endangered by the onslaught of rising seas, a problem more noteworthy and extensive in Alaska than in other parts of the world.

This wall is, of course, if nothing else, a project.  A 5-year, US$47M project.

Orion Marine Contractors – with headquarters in Houston, Texas, but experienced in marine work in Alaska - won the bid on a five-year project to reconstruct a deteriorating seawall on Cape Lisburne (see map above), a remote, long-range Air Force radar site about 40 miles northeast of Point Hope on the Chukchi Sea, and only a little over 100 miles from Russia. (Source:

“There’s the radar site up there and a runway,” said Mark Leick, project manager for Orion Marine. “That’s all there is.”

Well, that’s until this spring, when his crew travels north to fire up the heavy machinery that’s been sitting idle all winter. Orion Marine mobilized on the site in July 2016, then shut down in October because of the region’s early onset of winter.

The project for the US Air Force consists of replacing and reinforcing a 5000+ foot seawall that protects the Air Force’s mile-long runway at Cape Lisburne from an every-encroaching ocean onslaught. Storms and rising seas have continued to decompose the seawall, originally built in 1952.

The same tough climate that has contributed to the demise of the seawall presents project obstacles in the form of cold and wind.  The project is expected to last five construction seasons. Orion previously completed a similar seawall project in Unalakleet and a breakwater extension in Seward for the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are looking forward to working with the Air Force and Corps of Engineers to a successful completion of the Cape Lisburne project,” Leick said.

Here’s a description of the project from the US Department of Defense's report, "Climate-related Risk to DoD Infrastructure", just cleared for public release a couple of weeks ago (we try to keep things fresh here at People, Planet, Profits & Projects!).

Cape Lisburne Seawall Replacement Arctic sea ice is in constant change, growing in the fall and winter and receding in the spring and summer. The proximity of Air Force long range radar on the North Slope of Alaska to the Arctic shoreline makes them vulnerable to accelerated shoreline erosion from the duration and extent of sea ice fluctuations, increasing water temperatures, thawing of permafrost soils, and the effects of wave action. The rock seawall at the Cape Lisburne Long Rand Radar Station on the northwest Alaska coast line protects the installation’s gravel airstrip from tidal and storm driven wave action. Over the past decade the runway’s seawall has been depleted and eroded by wave action and extreme weather events. The damaged rock reinforcement became ineffective, and the 5,450 linear foot wall had to be replaced at a cost of $46.8 million.

If you think that the issue of climate change is limited to the US Department of Defense, well, you have underestimated not only climate change but the way in which the US DoD has acknowledged its effects.  I highly recommend this article:

In the article, you will find references to the recently-published Worldwide Threat Assessment by Dan Coates, Director of National Intelligence.


(Quoting from the above document)

Environment and Climate Change

The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possibly upheaval—through 2018.  The past 115 years have been the warmest period in the history of modern civilization, and the past few years have been the warmest years on record. Extreme weather events in a warmer world have the potential for greater impacts and can compound with other drivers to raise the risk of humanitarian disasters, conflict, water and food shortages, population migration, labor shortfalls, price shocks, and power outages.  Research has not identified indicators of tipping points in climate-linked earth systems, suggesting a possibility of abrupt climate change.  Worsening air pollution from forest burning, agricultural waste incineration, urbanization, and rapid industrialization—with increasing public awareness—might drive protests against authorities, such as those recently in China, India, and Iran.  Accelerating biodiversity and species loss—driven by pollution, warming, unsustainable fishing, and acidifying oceans—will jeopardize vital ecosystems that support critical human systems.  Recent estimates suggest that the current extinction rate is 100 to 1,000 times the natural extinction rate.

Water scarcity, compounded by gaps in cooperative management agreements for nearly half of the world’s international river basins, and new unilateral dam development are likely to heighten tension between countries.


This is all coming directly from US Government intelligence and defense agencies.

If you want to go beyond simply ‘defense’, and beyond any one country, to look at the overall effects of climate change, and the projects that it will launch, have a look at this study by the USGS (US Geological Survey) on living in the Pacific Atoll region (such as the US Marshall Islands).

In the midst of this research, I also discovered a very nice “interactive documentary” produced by PBS (US Public Broadcasting Service) show called Frontline.

 Access it immediately here.

So.  Walls... we do need them sometimes...and when we do, project managers will be there to make sure they are on time, within budget, and are separating exactly what should be separated.

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: March 12, 2019 12:52 AM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Another great post Richard. Thank you !

Thank you for sharing this information, Richard.

Thank you for sharing such relevant information! Great read!

Thanks for sharing!!

Fascinating information!

Thank you very much for your efforts and sharing

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