PALMETTO -- The Manatee Port Authority unanimously reached a tentative agreement Thursday on a $3.3 million settlement with the Michigan contractor that dredged Berth 12, sidestepping a court battle.
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock filed a $4.8 million claim against the port last year for expenses incurred as a result of project delays, most of which were spawned from leaks in the pipes and storage sites that housed the dredged material at Piney Point.
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 period. The first payment will be due June 1.
The port plans to aggressively seek repayment from third-party sources responsible for the delays, which likely will include HRK Holdings. The company owns Piney Point, an old phosphate mine that was used as a dispensing site for the dredged slurry.
“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 and increased the overall cost. Because the port held an independent contract with HRK, it would have been responsible for any penalties had the matter with Great Lakes 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.
In an email sent to Bustle late last week, HRK CEO Jordan Levy said the company remains committed to the Piney Point facility and ongoing cleanup effort.
“We’ve been working diligently with your staff at the Port, the Department of Environmental Protection and our experts to address the leak related issues which occurred this past summer,” Levy said in the email. “I’ve been assured by the DEP that the money to address these issues has been identified.”
Thursday’s settlement was negotiated through six meetings between port officials and Great Lakes. The payments will be funded through 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 driven 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.