“Our history is one of quality of product and workmanship, loyalty, integrity, responsibility, and dedication to safety in the workplace.”
Connolly-Pacific Co. traces its roots back to Tom Connolly, who started in business in 1920 as a contractor driving one of the highway tunnels leading into Yosemite National Park. Operating as T. E. Connolly Co., with California Contractor License No. 220, he took on various projects in and around California during the next 12 years. The company built 26 tunnels totaling 26 miles in length, including the tunnel through Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco Bay, which had the largest cross section of any tunnel in the world at the time.
In 1932, another contractor, Wilhelm Rohl, proposed that Connolly joint venture with his company to bid on the construction of El Capitan Dam in San Diego and together they formed Rohl-Connolly Co. After successfully winning the contract, the new joint venture completed the project in 1934.
Even as the El Capitan Dam project was just starting, Rohl-Connolly began pursuing other work. They were the successful low bidder to build the Federal Breakwater in Los Angeles Harbor for the Army Corps of Engineers. The breakwater project required a large source of rock and Tom Connolly was able to begin a relationship with the Wrigley family (of chewing gum fame) who owned Santa Catalina Island, 25 miles off the Southern California coast. Santa Catalina had a proven source of rock which Tom Connolly was able to access through a lease agreement that remains in effect today. Connolly was a geologist by education and realized that a rock source on the ocean would provide a tremendous transportation advantage. There being no known sources on the mainland in protected waters in Southern California, he looked to Catalina Island.
After completing the Los Angeles Harbor Breakwater in 1937, Rohl-Connolly expanded their horizons and undertook the construction of Deer Creek Dam on the Provo River in Utah, followed by Cottage Grove Dam in Oregon. Upon the completion of Cottage Grove Dam, the company recognized the opportunities presented by the expansion of the water distribution system to meet the demands of the rapidly growing Southern California population. Rohl-Connolly bid and was awarded the contract to build Headgate Dam in Parker, Arizona. John Connolly, Tom’s younger brother, served as superintendent for the Headgate project. John had worked for his brother on and off during his college years before joining the company full-time.
At about this time Rohl-Connolly teamed up with Gunther & Shirley Company to successfully win the bid for the construction of the 2-mile-long, 118-foot-high Caddoa Dam in southeastern Colorado. The outbreak of World War II delayed the start of the project from 1940 to 1946, and it was eventually completed in 1948. In 1940 the Caddoa Dam project had been renamed John Martin Dam in honor of the late Congressman who had sponsored the federal funding of the project.
During World War II, Rohl-Connolly operated under the name of Hawaiian Constructors to bid and build several military projects in the Hawaiian Islands and South Pacific islands, thus providing vital military “stepping stones” between Honolulu and Australia. As part of a joint venture it also built 135 miles of military highway in Alaska. As the military projects tapered off, the company returned to its roots in California and built the Pit River Tunnel for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in Northern California. John Connolly served as a Captain in the Army construction battalions during the war. He rejoined the company when the war ended.
In 1946, now incorporated as Connolly-Pacific Co., CP won an Army Corps of Engineers contract to construct the last remaining segment of the breakwater structures for the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. For this job they teamed up with Case and Peter Kiewit Sons’ Co. under the joint venture name of Connolly-Case-Kiewit, Joint Contractors and Co-Adventurers.
During the course of the breakwater construction project, T. E. Connolly also drove a tunnel for PG&E’s Feather River project north of Sacramento, followed by two diversion tunnels in 1948 just outside Sacramento for the Folsom Dam project. The Folsom Dam projects were part of the massive Central Valley Project in California. During this same time T. E. Connolly built Novato Creek Dam north of San Francisco.
The company’s specialization in tunnel and water projects was well suited for this time, when the rapid population growth in the Los Angeles basin was straining the capacity of the water supply system. In 1949 the company built the tunnel for San Gabriel Dam near Pasadena, followed by several water distribution projects related to the California Aqueduct.
In 1951 Connolly-Pacific built Pier D, a new terminal for the Port of Long Beach. The company also constructed entrance jetties and breakwaters for virtually all of the Southern California small boat harbors and marinas using rock from their quarry on Santa Catalina Island.
In 1957, Connolly-Pacific rebuilt the Long Beach Naval Shipyard to provide it with the capacity to handle the new, larger warships and aircraft carriers. The Long Beach shipyard project also marked a shift in the company’s focus from tunnels and water projects to harbor projects in the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which were expanding as the nation’s economic growth demanded additional port facilities. Terminal construction and land reclamation became the largest part of the company’s business.
The early 1960s marked the beginning of major expansion programs for the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and Connolly-Pacific was well positioned to capture much of the work. In 1961 they built the Pier J project for the Port of Long Beach, partnering with Construction Aggregates Co., who handled the dredging. Contracts to build Piers G and F followed in subsequent years. During this decade the old wooden wharves were replaced with deeper draft concrete wharves. Tom Connolly received the Golden Beavers Award for Management in 1961.
In the early to mid 1960s, Connolly-Pacific built four artificial oil drilling islands within the Long Beach breakwaters for Texaco, Humble, Union, Mobile and Shell (THUMS), along with an island in the open ocean off Seal Beach for Chevron.
In the early 1970s the establishment of the California Coastal Commission by then-Governor Jerry Brown brought an abrupt decline in coastal construction as this new quasi-governmental agency was given unprecedented powers to delay new development projects. It took most of the decade for port expansion projects to navigate through the new permitting maze.
John Connolly was awarded the Golden Beaver Award for Management in 1972. Tom Connolly died in 1976 and John succeeded him as president for a brief time as the company was being sold to L. G. Everist, a principal in Western Contracting.
In 1981 the Port of Los Angeles dredged its main channel from -35 feet to -45 feet to accommodate new deep draft vessels. The spoil from the dredging operation was used to create the 400-acre Pier 300, which was constructed by Connolly-Pacific and Potashnik Construction.
Connolly-Pacific built marinas in Long beach and Los Angeles in the early 1980s in addition to harbor expansion projects.
In 1988 Connolly-Pacific formed a joint venture with Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. to tackle the expansion of Pier J in the Port of Long Beach. Great Lakes had purchased the dredge Potashnik had used to deepen the main channel of the Port of Los Angeles. The Pier J project was completed in 1990.
Increased trade in the Pacific Rim brought about some major port expansion projects in the early 1990s. In 1994 the Pier 400 Implementation program for the Port of Los Angeles began. This was a one billion dollar program to build new terminals and deepen ship channels. Phase I was let in 1994 and Phase II of this program was let in 1997 with the team of Connolly-Pacific and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., operating as Pier 400 Constructors, landing both contracts at a cost of over 400 million dollars. Their work involved placing 11 million tons of stone, and 60 million cubic yards dredge fill to create 685 acres for new ship terminals. The Joint Venture received several prestigious awards, including AGC of America’s 1998 Marvin M. Black Excellence in Partnering Award, AGC of California’s Constructor Awards in 1998 and 2001 for “Meeting the Challenge of a Difficult Job – Heavy Engineering” and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division 2000 Contractor of the Year Award for Civil Works Projects.
In 2000 Connolly-Pacific, merged with Knife River Corp., a subsidiary of MDU Resources Group, Inc. (NYSE: MDU).
As part of the defense cutbacks in 2000, the U. S. Navy handed over the abandoned Long Beach Naval Shipyard to the Port of Long Beach. The site presented some serious challenges as to how to develop it into a modern ship terminal. Connolly-Pacific joint ventured with Manson Construction Co. to handle the work in two of the three phases, removing six concrete piers, thousands of concrete piling and three abandoned dry docks. The site is now operating as the largest ship terminal in the world.
As Pacific Rim trade continued to grow, the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles needed to deepen the main channel to -55 feet. To undertake this complex project with rigorous schedule requirements, Connolly-Pacific joint ventured with Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. and Manson Construction Co. Their $192 million contract began in 2002 and will continue through 2006.
“We have and will continue to seek the means and methods of the expansion of our operations into other areas of the construction field.”