By Kevin Klott
Company tackles specialty projects with versatile personnel, pride in safety
For more than a decade, Advanced Blasting Services LLC has made its mark throughout the Last Frontier with one word: dynamite. But ask president Billy Rosseau how the Wasilla-based company has grown to be a success, and the word “versatility” might be a more accurate description.
“Based on our name, everyone thinks blasting is all that we do,” Rosseau said. “We do rock bolting, meshing, scaling and demolition.”
Advanced Blasting Services is a woman-owned, heavy civil contractor that specializes in explosives engineering, drilling and blasting, material production, rock excavation and slope stabilization. The work it does takes place along highways, on bridges, at airports, at remote sites and harbors throughout Alaska. The company was established in 2003 and is owned by Julia Saunders.
A proud AGC member since 2008, Advanced Blasting Services typically runs a core group of eight to 10 employees, Rosseau said. This number fluctuates with the work load; it’s had as many as 50 employees. Regardless of how many are on the payroll, Advanced Blasting Services hires with safety in mind.
“We employ a team of versatile personnel and pride ourselves on an outstanding safety record while having performed some of Alaska’s most demanding projects,” Rosseau said.
Advanced Blasting Services performs mesh installation above the Parks Highway.
Photo courtesy Advanced Blasting Services
A good example of safety took place during the company’s 2015 Parks Highway rehabilitation project from Mile 239 to Mile 252. This was a high-publicity, high-risk project that was primarily done at night. Most of the work was rope-, crane- and helicopter-access only.
The general contractor was tasked with repaving the road, but the work area wasn’t safe because that stretch of highway travels through a spot known for rock slides. Some areas were selected for slope stabilization to make it safer for people working on the road and traffic passing through.
Enter Advanced Blasting Services.
“That entire project was steep, rough terrain. It was real technical,” Rosseau said. “A lot of people were working for us at that time, but we maintained a perfect safety record, which we are very proud of. We logged over 20,000 man-hours without any lost-time incidents.”
Advanced Blasting Services blasts the rock material needed to create the breakwater that would
surround most of the new harbor in Valdez in 2015.Photo courtesy Advanced Blasting Services
Valdez Harbor project
Another project that stands out was in 2015 when Advanced Blasting Services helped build the new harbor in Valdez. Its mission involved three tasks: blasting near the existing port to level the land behind the proposed port, creating space for utilities and a parking area, and providing the rock and fill materials needed to create the breakwater.
The contract required Advanced Blasting Services to produce 208,500 tons of rock. To produce such a high volume of what most quarries or mines would consider oversized rocks or boulders, the job required specialized blasting in a tricky location.
Advanced Blasting Services used a quarry 8 miles outside of Valdez that hadn’t been used in years. To complicate matters, the drill and blast team needed to pioneer a new access ramp to create a bench wide enough for its drill rig to begin operations and blast the rock needed for the harbor.
The original plan was to take the rock out in a series of lifts. Advanced Blasting recognized this challenge — given the lack of an existing drill pad — and came up with a risky but doable solution.
“We basically did one shot to produce all the materials,” Rosseau said. “It was a massive shot (about 250,000 yards), and it was a complete success. We really hang our hat on that.”
Advanced Blasting Services used more than 200,000 pounds of explosives in that shot. For a construction project in a quarry situation, Rosseau admitted it “went out on a limb.”
Drilling and blasting equipment at a remote site development. Advanced Blasting Services has been a proud
member of AGC since 2008. “I enjoy the networking of AGC,” Advanced Blasting Services president Billy
Rosseau said. “They host a lot of events where we get to meet people from different industries.”
Photo courtesy Advanced Blasting Services
A great job
Bill Harris, president of Harris Sand and Gravel in Valdez who hired Advanced Blasting Services for the harbor project, quickly summed up his feelings toward the company.
“They did a great job,” he said. “It was definitely a challenge for them.”
Years ago, Harris Sand and Gravel did its own blasting work. But since Sept. 11, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives makes it challenging for companies to work with explosives, he said.
“We used Advanced Blasting Services in 2007 for the flooded Keystone Canyon at the 16-Mile quarry, and they’ve been doing stuff for us ever since,” said Harris, who at that time sub-contracted Advanced Blasting Services to drill and blast material production for emergency flood repairs.
Harris could think of about three companies in Alaska that do what Advance Blasting Services does, but he doesn’t even bother calling around.
“There’s no reason to,” Harris said. “They always do a good job. They work efficiently, and they are cost effective.”
Efficient and effective
Jason Davis, president of Turnagain Marine Construction, echoed the sentiments of Harris in regard to the efficiency and cost of Advanced Blasting Services.
Advanced Blasting Services supported the $35 million renewal of the Unalaska Marine Center dock by both generating the 70,000 cubic yards of structural fill needed to build the dock pad and performing technical demolition of the existing structures.
To expedite the removal of the heavily reinforced 34,000 square foot Position IV concrete dock, Advanced Blasting Services drilled and shot the pile caps and abutment wall. The company was able to fracture all the concrete and leave the rebar intact for removal and recycling.
“The Advanced Blasting effort took several weeks off the schedule and cost less than other demolition methods that had been considered,” Davis said.
Kevin Klott is a freelance writer who lives in Anchorage.