In the race for stimulus dollars, Washington is well ahead of the pack in winning valuable government contracts. Federal contracts awarded to companies and government agencies in the state are worth more than $2.3 billion, the highest in the nation, according to the government’s stimulus reporting Web site, Recovery.gov.
A tally run by a private company, Seattle-based Onvia, values Washington’s stimulus projects at $8.16 billion, second only to California’s.
Federal contracts account for only 6.4 percent of the $275 billion being disbursed by the stimulus package for new contracts or programs; the remainder of the $787 billion package is in the form of tax cuts and spending on state programs. Washington has by far seen the largest share of money from these new contracts. More than half of the contract money for Washington will go to engineering giant CH2M Hill to clean up the Hanford nuclear site. Of the 10 largest contracts reported on Recovery.gov, three are Washington projects related to cleaning up the former plutonium production site.
CH2M Hill already had bid out work at Hanford, and the extra $1.36 billion allocated for the work through the stimulus is the second-largest contract in the country. It’s nearly $1 billion more than the third-largest allocation reported, also to CH2M Hill, for work cleaning up nuclear waste at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls.
Nearly $2 billion in stimulus contracts is going to work in the Richland area, almost all of it related to the Hanford cleanup. The government reports that about 900 jobs will be created there, out of more than 1,400 in Washington.
When the stimulus was being patched together early this year, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., strongly advocated for nuclear cleanup projects because they were already under way, and she helped secure $6 billion for them in the bill.
“Obviously when you do $6 billion, a significant amount would go to Hanford because it’s one of the largest (cleanup) projects,” Murray said.
Since the Hanford projects had already gone to bid, the extra funding could be used right away, she said. Geoff Tyree, a spokesman for the Department of Energy’s Richland office, said the stimulus money is roughly equal to what the office usually gets on an annual basis. Some work that had been put on hold to pursue more pressing cleanup has been resumed, he said. As a result, costs will be lower over time because the environmental impact will be minimized and the contractors will clean up material now that would have been costly to contain until disposal money became available, Tyree said.
“The work, the contractors, hasn’t changed,” he said. “What has changed is when they’re going to do it. They’ll be doing it sooner.”
A spokesman from CH2M Hill’s operations in the area could not be reached for comment.
Onvia, which specializes in tracking government projects up for bid, operates Recovery.org. Eric Gillespie, the company’s senior vice president, claims Onvia’s site is an accurate picture of the overall economic impact of federal stimulus money rather than just the money awarded through the stimulus.
The government’s view is top-down, whereas Onvia tracks it from the ground up, Gillespie said.
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