Catch a Wave


By Don Marsh

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A tough Northeastern winter challenged Lakelands Concrete early on, but crews kept an eight dolosse per day fabrication schedule that would lead to the contractor’s baseline: a 750-structure inventory prior to mid-June shipments to the Lake Ontario site.

Architectural, structural and utility precast operator Lakelands Concrete Products Inc. is assured a year for the records: In the first half of 2015, it completed a contract requiring 45-ton structures, the largest to date from its Lima, N.Y., plant, then mobilized for an order representing a new watermark in net tonnage. 

Lakelands Concrete began the year expediting production of 950 16-ton structures for the Corps of Engineers’ Oswego Harbor Detached Breakwater repair and upgrade along Lake Ontario’s southern shore. The structures are known individually as dolos, derived from South African and Latin terms meaning knucklebone; through weight and interlocking geometry, dolosse quell shoreline or breakwater erosion from waves and undercurrent. Oswego Harbor is the first Corps contract to use a 16-ton dolos, the agency otherwise accustomed to the non-proprietary structure’s 8-or 4-ton versions.

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By subcontracting cage fabrication to an area rebar specialist, Klein Reinforcing, Lakelands Concrete met the dolosse casting schedule, while tackling stock production and orders booked prior to the Durocher Marine contract.

Assisted by three contract haulers running drop deck trailers, Lakelands Concrete began delivery in mid-June of 30 dolosse per day to Oswego, N.Y., with 15 drivers typically making two deliveries on the 100-mile, plant-to-site route. The lead contractor on the $19 million job is Durocher Marine of Cheboygan, Mich., a division of Kokosing Consruction Co. It awarded the precast order in late 2014, binding Lakelands Concrete to an aggressive January–July, eight-piece/day production schedule.

CFC Forms of Carbondale, Pa., fabricated eight dolos forms, with two filling ports and two clamped sections each. Mounted on pedestals, they have been staged along Lakelands Concrete’s main production bay, 50- x 300-ft. with a 20-ton overhead crane. Each structure requires four 2-yd. batches of self-consolidating mixes, a plant standard.

The SCC is designed around fine and coarse aggregate from the Hanson Aggregates Victor Quarry, where winter stockpiles dwindled to a few hundred tons as dolosse production remained on schedule; Lafarge Type III cement; and, Grace Adva superplasticizers. The Lakelands Concrete plant was one of Grace Construction Products’ early proving grounds for precast-grade Adva admixtures, wide adoption of which began in 2001–2002.

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When executed in concrete, the dolos geometry has thick, robust sections to withstand wave and water forces. The 16-ton unit has 11-ft. sections, connected by 5-ft. stems; main members taper from 42-in. diameter octagonal cross section. Each dolos bears 8 yd. of self-consolidating mixes, placed in one of two ports on clamped forms. As production reached target pace, crews averaged about 30 minutes filling each form through four 2-yd. batches.

Inspectors required proof the SCC mix would yield consistent density, demonstrated by cutting an initial dolos into five pieces. Lakelands Concrete has since maintained a regular quality control, quality assurance regimen on five-batch frequency, measuring air content, mix spread, temperature and strength development—7,000 psi at seven days. Crews have also verified the dolos forms’ dimension tolerances every eight days.

Durocher Marine required Lakelands Concrete to finish 750 dolosse prior to dispatching the first unit. Following the initial 950-piece lot, up to 100 additional dolosse might be ordered as the contractor and Corps measure unit density attained along the target breakwater plot.

From ramp up through production and early deliveries, Lakelands Concrete President Todd Clarke observes with guarded satisfaction: “The whole contract has gone according to plan. I credit our people with coordinating product fabrication, picking and storage, especially in the face of a harsh winter. Except for an equipment break down that threw things off one day, the whole process has clicked.”

“Things have gone very well,” concurs Sales Manager Gina Lathan. “Everyone has been able to anticipate what the next crew is doing—much like executing a football play.”


Corps of Engineers Buffalo District staff has mapped repairs around a 1,050-ft. area of the main 7,000-ft. breakwater protecting Oswego Harbor’s westward entry. The concrete-capped, stone structure was damaged in October 2012 by the western weather front that morphed into Superstorm Sandy as it hit the Atlantic Coast. Each dolos will be placed by sling on a base of Corps-designated bed, underlayer or armor stone graded from 3 lb. to 18 tons. The rock schedule calls for a) 45,000 tons of limestone—primarily 650-lb. to 2-ton boulders—from Hanson Aggregates Jamesville Quarry, near Syracuse, N.Y.; and, b) 65,000 tons of granite, mostly 8- to 18-ton sections, 3.75- to 5.75-ft., from the Rock of Ages Quarry in Vermont.

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Lakelands Concrete yard staff and contract haulers can typically load a dolos in eight minutes. At the Port of Oswego site 100 miles to the northeast, offloading and staging average six minutes. The dolosse order necessitated the addition of a 20-ton Taylor lift truck, while the 45-ton Silver Creek bridge beam (below) contract drove an upgrade from a 40- to 70-ton Mi-Jack gantry crane.
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Bracing the breakwater to new guidelines will require Durocher Marine to attain just over 23 dolosse per 1,000 square feet of base and slope area. A 16-ton dolos is 11 feet long and has a volume of 213 cu. ft. In lieu of diver-assisted structure and stone placement, the contractor will deploy Posibloc, a topographical 3D system attached to crane cables. Developed by Mesuris of Saint-Gregoire, France, the program operates without camera or sonar, instead leveraging GPS to guide precise stone and dolosse setting. Companion Visibloc technology records each unit’s location, enabling the crane operator to target subsequent placements for optimal density and interlocking.

Durocher Marine has assembled two 2,000-ton and two 2,400-ton barges—each vessel equal to transferring 50 to 60 dolosse—along with a land-based Leibherr 895 crawler crane. The contractor aims to set 40 of the precast structures and varying stone volumes per day.


The first U.S. port of call on the Great Lakes from St. Lawrence Seaway, Oswego Harbor facilitates 1 million-plus tons of cargo annually, including cement for a 23,000-ton Lafarge North America terminal, plus steel, salt, and agricultural and petroleum products. Corps Buffalo District staff observed severe breakwater wall damage in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, owing to what Project Manager Captain Kelly Polashenski notes were “oversized waves and extreme angle they hit the structure.”

“Repairing the breakwater will clear the way for commerce, increased job creation and economic development … [and] ensure the Oswego area continues to reap the benefits of this harbor for years to come,” adds Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), who credits a $63 billion Sandy Relief bill for funding such work.

“This project allows Oswego Harbor to bounce back from historic storm damage in a way that makes it more resilient when faced with future extreme wave action,” affirms Corps Buffalo District Commander LTC Karl Jansen, underscoring “the resources, leadership, partnering, and technical expertise that came together with a sense of urgency to prepare for these vital repairs. Resilient infrastructure unlocks the potential for economic vitality and assures our national security.”

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One of the more successful product additions at Lakelands Concrete in recent years has been the Stone Strong retaining wall system. In addition to its established prospects, Stone Strong has emerged as stay-in-place concrete form for abutments supporting shorter span bridges. They are integral to accelerated construction: Contractors place footings, stack Stone Strong, secure vertical rebar, then fill with ready mixed concrete—making way for erection of flat slab bridge decks. Agencies and contractors find the stay-in-place forms, with their finished exteriors, save labor and shrink schedules.
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Of all project principals, Lakelands Concrete has the best perspective on the contract’s positive trickle effect in the New York Finger Lakes region. Area companies, service providers and subcontractors the producer has engaged in the dolosse production and delivery are Deats Construction & Excavating, Honeoye, new Lima plant storage site development; Concor Precision, Brewerton, destructive testing; Klein Reinforcing, Spencerport, cage fabrication; Castle Harvestor Metal Fabricators, Seneca Castle, custom lifting devices; Ron Samsel, Henrietta, structural engineer; Curtis Rickard, Churchville, stencils; plus, Carmel Trucking of Bloomfield, Coniber Trucking of LeRoy, and CR Anderson Trucking of Manchester, dolosse deliveries.


Family-owned Lakelands Concrete is western New York’s sole Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute-Certified A1 Facility and a long-standing, New York State Department of Transportation-approved precast structures source. It has followed a trajectory similar to peers across the country, growing from small (< 10 ton) to larger product and pinpointing site conditions or project types where precast offers a better value proposition than established cast-in-place concrete methods. Beyond septic tanks and small utility structures that carried the business in its first few decades, the Lakelands Concrete offering has grown to encompass 36- to 2,000-sq.-ft. utility buildings; Stone Strong retaining walls; box culverts and wing walls; arch bridges; bridge beams and slabs; architectural panels; sound, privacy or lagging walls; and, site utility structures.

Coupled with a solid backlog developed through 2014, the Oswego contract and preceding order of record product scale—45-ton beams for a New York Thruway/Interstate 90 crossing at Silver Creek—have seen Lakelands Concrete expand payroll 15-20 percent year over year. Present headcount exceeds 60, up from a recession-low 35. Bridge beam and dolosse production coincide with another management priority reflecting a healthy business with good growth prospects, but operating in a relatively rural market of static population profile.

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The Oswego Harbor Detached Breakwater repair and upgrade will require an estimated 110,000 tons of bed, underlayer and armor stone, primarily delivered by rail from Hanson Aggregates Jamesville Quarry and Rock of Ages Quarry. The dolosse are scheduled for placement through October or November, while remaining underlayer and armor stone can be set this year or into 2016.
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Work centers on 850 feet of breakwater, lakeside, plus 100 feet of wrap area on both ends. Stone and dolosse will be positioned as an overlay at a 1:2 horizontal to vertical slope, the base width increasing about 70 feet from an existing 120 feet. The detached breakwater was built in 1958–59 of core stone, cut stone armor placed in ashlar pattern at 1:1.5 (lakeside) and 1:1.3 (harbor side) vertical to horizontal slopes, plus 8-ft. wide concrete cap.

Lakelands Concrete management eyes a culture shift in the office and plant. It is taking a page from shoe retailer Zappos, where management encourages employees to “pursue growth and learning”; be “adventurous, creative and open-minded”; and, “build open and honest relationships with communication” along with a “positive team and family spirit.”

“We are striving to create a strong company with a positive culture that attracts great employees,” says Todd Clarke. “There are growth opportunities here, and the timing is good to change how we operate and develop talent. Customers can tell if they are partnering with a producer that has strong values and a commitment to quality.”

“We need to support people and help them support their families,” adds Gina Lathan. “I would like to find what works for them so they are content in their jobs. Within two years, we will be a different, more diverse company.”