An aerial map displaying the aftermath of Hurricane Sally’s destruction shows more barges than initially expected washed ashore in the Pensacola area last week.
Imagery compiled Friday and Saturday by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show at least 20 barges scattered across the region. Some are lodged on the properties of homeowners near Pensacola Bay and other are in Milton, Gulf Breeze and many other spots across the greater Pensacola area.
The barges belong to Skanska USA, the construction company contracted by the Florida Department of Transportation to build the new Three Mile Bridge.
On Monday, Skanska released a statement to the News Journal saying “the vast majority of homeowners” have been contacted by the company and informed of a comprehensive plan that would guide them through the barge retrieval and insurance process.
Homeowners pushed back against that claim, however. The four families dealing with barges in their front yard near Pensacola Bay told the News Journal they have not been contacted in any shape or form by the company.
The Pensacola residents said they’ve actively tried to speak with someone from the company in hopes of initiating the barge removal process.
Two homeowners in the Pensacola Bay area said members of Skanska pulled up to the barges on their respective properties Monday in speedboats, apparently to assess the barges. But those representatives did not attempt to make contact with the homeowners while on site.
“I did see a boat pass by here about a half hour or 40 minutes ago with people in construction outfits onboard,” said Pensacola’s James Simkins on Monday afternoon. “They slowly went by. Perhaps one person took some photographs then sped along. That’s the most physical contact I’ve seen with Skanska.”
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Simkins said he’s done some digging in the past few days in hopes of landing a direct Skanska contact. He said an FDOT representative passed along information for a contact at Skanska’s Pensacola casting yard on Bayou Chico, off of Old Pace Road.
Simkins said he knocked on the doors of trailers at the casting yard on Sunday and no one answered, adding that he wasn’t sure if the offices at the Bayou Chico yard are functioning.
An April article on ConstructionEquipmentGuide.com confirms that the yard has been active throughout the Three Mile Bridge construction process, noting that pilings and other concrete components were fabricated there and were transported to the work site “via barges equipped that large cranes with 22,000-pound diesel powered hammers to do the driving.”
Milton resident Claire Teixeira, who lives on Pearson Road, has a barge lodged on her property and said she tried calling numbers on Skanska’s website all weekend but did not get through to anyone.
“The only people that we heard from was FDOT,” Teixeria said Monday. “They sent a rep out just to take pictures and I guess to look for an identifying number on the boat.”
Simkins said he did touch base with one Skanska representative late last week, but he had to seek that person out himself.
“When I called they asked for a summary of what the impacts were, and they did request some photographs,” Simkins said. “They mentioned that they are collecting this information and would be forwarding it on to the appropriate parties, including their legal team. That’s as much information as they provided. It sounds like they’re trying to gather facts at this point.”
In an FDOT news release Monday, the company said it “understands (Skanska) has dispatched a community outreach team and insurance claim specialists to assist impacted property owners. The contractor has asked property owners impacted by Skanska’s barges or other equipment during Hurricane Sally to contact them at [email protected]”
Skanska appears to have contracted with several third party marine survey companies to start the salvage process. One of the contractors, Qubed Limited L.C, arrived in Pensacola on Monday, according to witnesses who spoke with the News Journal.
A Skanska representative said Monday that no one from the company was available to answer questions from the News Journal because it is “laser focused” on getting barges removed as quickly as possible.
Jake Newby can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8538.