CH2M Hill has entered into its third consecutive contract to support National Science Foundation-sponsored research in the Arctic. The new $325 million, eight-year contract indicates that interest in the Arctic is definitely growing.
Numerous research institutes and universities have obtained resources through these contracts to work in the harsh, dark climate of the North. Once their projects are approved, CH2M Hill provides everything the researchers need, be it logistics, transportation, communications, construction, engineering, information technology support, safety training, grant proposal and estimate development, among other things. Even food and lodging can be arranged.
While much of this work is done worldwide, Alaska's Arctic region is a primary spot for it. This is particularly true around the sea ice north of Barrow.
"We work primarily in the Arctic region of Alaska," said Mike McKibben, CH2M Hill's program manager for the Arctic research support and logistics services program.
The contract awards have grown substantially over the years. The first one, awarded in 1999, was about $46 million. The next contract in 2005 went up to almost four times that amount. This new one is estimated at roughly $325 million and covers eight years. The exact amount is not yet known.
McKibben said this consecutive growth reflects the attention that's been given to climate change, which has resulted in an increased number of projects over the years. He said the projects have also grown more complex.
"There's a huge interest in science in the Arctic," he said. "As people become more and more aware of the impact the Arctic has on the climate there's a lot of interest and that keeps increasing."
CH2M Hill holds the primary contract with the National Science Foundation, which supports between 150 and 176 projects in a year. This requires a lot of close collaboration and planning for everything from communication support to snowmachines.
Research projects under the new contract are still under development. McKibben said they typically don't get approved for funding until later in the year. NSF will call for proposals and approve the projects CH2M Hill will support.
"We're just in a phase-in period now," McKibben said. "We really start work on it on February 1."
This phasing-in period consists of working closely with the researches to identify their science support needs for the upcoming year. The research requirements are complied into a program plan for submission to NSF.
Most of the Arctic work is done from April through August, when there is the most relief from harsh cold and darkness. Other projects are still conducted year-round.
CH2M Hill's support work will also mean increased activity for small businesses, contractors and Alaska Native corporations that work with or supply the projects under this continued arrangement.
"We bring a lot of money into the local economy," said McKibben.
Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp. is the primary Native corporation to benefit since its subsidiary Umiaq has just combined with Polar Field Services and SRI International as part of CH2M Hill Polar Services.