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Naval Base Kitsap Draws Praise For Using Local Workers To Build New Submarine Wharf

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Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest
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An artist's rendering of the new explosives handling wharf

Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer says the way a new submarine wharf is being built on the Kitsap Peninsula should be a model for other federal projects. He says it was the first time the Department of Defense used a special labor agreement that’s supposed to ensure local workers get hired.

The wharf, which will be used for loading explosive materials onto submarines, is almost done. It’s expected to be finished in January. Kilmer says what’s unique is the project labor agreement the Navy required between labor unions and the contractor from the beginning, which ensured the bulk of the work was done by people from the surrounding area.

"When the federal government’s going to spend a whole lot of money, making sure it’s actually using a local workforce for the project and making sure the benefits accrue to the local community is a really big deal," Kilmer said.

Lee Whetham is  executive secretary with the Olympic Peninsula Building and Construction Trades Council, one of the unions that signed the agreement to build the wharf. He says in the past he’s been frustrated watching contractors for federal projects bring in workers from as far away as Guam, which is why he’s happy this agreement steered work to local folks.

"I can say that without a doubt everybody that’s on that project, 99.9 percent, came from Western Washington," Whetham said.

The price tag to build the wharf is about $345 million. Kilmer says he’s asking President Obama to use more project labor agreements for federal construction projects. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.