Strawberry Island

As it undergoes infrastructural transformations to prepare for the construction of a new and larger Navy ship, FMM continues to work with various local, state and federal agencies to maintain an acute awareness of the recreational, safety and environmental assets that lie both above and below the waters of the Menominee River (such as the Strawberry Island heron rookery pictured here).

EagleHerald staff writer

MARINETTE—The next phase of Fincantieri Marinette Marine’s (FMM) more than $200 million investment in capital expansion projects, readying the shipyard the production of the United States Navy’s new fleet of advanced Constellation Class (FFG-62) frigates, begins next month with the commencement bedrock blasting and sediment dredging operations along the Menominee River waterfront in the area just off the shipyard.

Beginning in May and running through most of October, Reon Salvage Company out of Sturgeon Bay, will remove several inches of sediment and bedrock along the river’s shoreline. The removal of this material will effectively increase the river’s depth in that area, allowing for the launch and navigation of the larger Constellation frigates.

An informational website created by FMM provides the public a comprehensive understanding of various details about the operations that include maps of safety zones, restricted zones, up-to-date information about temporary river closures, implementation of safety measures and how workers plan to ensure that operations maintain a high level of environmental safety.

Those interested can visit Dredging/Blasting updates.

DETAILS ON SAFETY

For the most part, fishing and boating on the river will not be prohibited through the months of the operations, however certain safety protocols will be in place and Senior Manager, Public Affairs and Government Relations for FMM, Bethany Skorik, wants to ensure that the public receives the message regarding the safety, particularly those who frequently utilize the river for recreation, work and fishing purposes. Those protocols include river traffic restrictions during certain times during each weekday for scheduled blasting and other operations.

Monday through Friday, during the construction, a portion of the Menominee River along FMM’s waterfront will be temporarily restricted, allowing workers to carry out safe operations. Officials expect that each weekday between 4 and 5 p.m., boating and other river traffic will be restricted for up to 30 minutes. There are no plans to restrict activities on the river during weekends, holidays (Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day and Thanksgiving) or during local fishing tournaments.

“There will also be signs posted at all the local marinas and boat landings,” Skorik informed the EagleHerald, adding that FMM has taken action to inform other impacted businesses in the area. “We’ve met with all our neighbor companies on the water and updated them, and also hosted a public meeting at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.”

According to a project timeline posted on the website, preliminary preparation work will begin Tuesday. However, the first test blasting will not occur until mid-May with subsequent blasting operations to commence thereafter and periodically at specified times of the day through the latter half of October.

“Many of our employees and local community members enjoy the tremendous outdoor recreational opportunities that come with living in northeast Wisconsin, so we are determined to limit how our construction potentially impacts our neighbors and those who transit past our waterfront,” said Jan Allman, CEO of FMM. (See “Limiting community/environmental disruptions”)

WHY THE WORK?

In April of last year, the Navy awarded FMM the multi-billion dollar frigate contract that currently includes the procurement of 20 guided-missile frigates over the next several years.

With the first two ships topping out at a cost that exceeds approximately $1 billion (each), and subsequent ships reaching upwards of $940 million, according to a Constellation Class Frigate program document prepared by the Congressional Research Service, the new contract represents a boost to FMM’s bottom line as well as to the economy of the surrounding region.

“We were fortunate as a shipyard to secure the contract to design and build the Navy’s guided-missile frigates,” Allman said. “Part of our contract is to make necessary improvements to our facilities so that we can deliver the world’s best frigates for decades.”

Thus, in preparation to begin cutting steel for the new ships, several large structural additions and other facility upgrades, currently underway at the shipyard, create a flurry of construction activity each day. One only needs to stroll past Ely Street to witness the spires of several construction cranes towering over the rooftops along Main Street, and to hear the drone of heavy equipment and other ongoing work aimed at fabricating the infrastructural foundation of the shipyard’s future.

Among many things, those expansions include the largest ship lift (syncrolift) in the nation, which will gently and safely lower each ship into the river when launch time arrives. They also involve the construction of Building 34, a goliath of a structure that will facilitate the simultaneous housing of two 500-foot Constellation-class frigates at the same time inside a massive climate-controlled environment.

Shipyard developments not only include the construction and expansion of new equipment and facilities but also the growth of the FMM workforce.

According to FMM Chief Executive Officer Jan Allman, during a March 23 interview with the EagleHerald, shipyard workers aim to begin cutting steel for the first frigates later this year. In that same interview, both Allman and {span}Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Michael Gilday{/span} delivered an enthusiastic message regarding the various capital investment projects as well as the addition of approximately 1,000 new employees to accommodate production lines of the ships.

“For me, it’s very rewarding being in the state of Wisconsin,” Allman said in March. “And to be able to support Wisconsinites as well as Michigan (residents) … We are proud to be able to offer jobs where other places are not.”

The new frigate will serve the Navy as multi-mission, small surface combatant ships with complex technology capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare, antisubmarine warfare and electromagnetic warfare operations. Utilizing a more recent contract design derived from the Italian variant Fregata Europea Multi-Mission (FREMM) frigate, built by Fincantieri, the FFG-62 comes in at 496 feet in length with an estimated displacement of 7,400 tons, according to the Congressional Research Service.