Port Manatee reaches tentative Piney Point agreement

jsalman@bradenton.comJanuary 19, 2012 

PALMETTO -- The Manatee Port Authority unanimously agreed today on a $3.3 million principal settlement with the Michigan contractor that dredged Berth 12, keeping the Piney Point mess out of the courts.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock filed a $4.8 million claim against the port last year for expenses incurred as a result of leaks in the pipes and storage sites that housed the dredged material.

Once some minor outstanding details are resolved, Port Chairman Larry Bustle has been authorized to officially sign the settlement, which will send Great Lakes seven interest-free payments totaling $3.284 million over a 30-month term. The first bill will be due June 1.

The port plans to aggressively seek repayment from third-party sources responsible for the delays, which will likely include HRK Holdings. The company owns Piney Point, an old phosphate mine that was used a dispensing site for the dredged material.

“It’s unfortunate we had the delays we did,” Bustle said. “You look for a negotiation where nobody’s happy, but everyone got something, and that’s sort of what we have here.”

The Berth 12 dredging project officially opened South Port, the focus of a $200 million decade-long expansion allowing for larger ships and cargos.

But while dredging was underway in June, the storage liners sprung leaks, spilling the dredged material into Bishop Harbor, which is downstream from HRK’s Piney Point facility.

The environmental fallout delayed the project for at least a month while climbing the overall cost. Because the port held an independent contract with HRK, it would have been responsible for any penalties had the matter entered litigation, said Kevin Hennessy, an attorney representing the port.

The project was fully completed in October. Representatives from both Great Lake and HRK didn’t return several calls seeking comment Thursday.

The settlement was negotiated through six meetings between port officials and Great Lakes. The money payments will come from port tenant fees.

All-in-all, Port Authority members were satisfied with the principal agreement, mostly because it kept the issue from litigation, which most believe ultimately would have drove the expenses higher.

“This has been a very long process,” Port Authority member Robin DiSabatino said. “Hopefully we can put this behind us and move on with the business of the port.”

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095.

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