Companies sued over port expansion respond

Lisa Demer

The companies being sued by the municipality over the flawed Port of Anchorage expansion project are fighting back in court.

Both Integrated Concepts and Research Corp., or ICRC, which was the contracted program manager, and PND Engineers Inc., which designed the new port, defended their work in formal responses filed in federal court Wednesday. CH2M Hill Alaska Inc., which in its prior configuration as Veco Alaska Inc. analyzed the PND design for stability, filed its defense Monday.

The municipality sued the three firms last month in state Superior Court, but it was then transferred to U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

Construction problems with the unusual design began to emerge in 2008 and work has been stalled since 2010. Instead of a traditional dock on piling, the new port structure was designed as a series of connected U-shaped steel cells that would form a new dock face and be backfilled with gravel and dirt to form new land.

In its motion, ICRC asks federal Judge Ralph Beistline to throw out the case, in the part because the company was acting as an agent of the federal government, which oversaw the project, and has "derivative sovereign immunity." Under another theory argued by the corporation, it can't be sued unless the federal government is also sued.

Its contract wasn't with the municipality, but rather with the federal Maritime Administration, so the city doesn't have a breach-of-contract claim, ICRC said. In a 2003 memorandum, between the municipality, the port and the federal agency, known as MARAD, the city and port were supposed to "provide overall program requirements and direction," ICRC says in its motion. The city itself had "technical authority over the project," ICRC said.

It never served as general contractor but instead had "the far more limited role of providing contract management support under the close supervision of not only MARAD but also the Municipality."

At any rate, ICRC said it can seek reimbursements for its legal bills from the federal agency.

PND and CH2M Hill, responding for the defunct Veco, filed answers to the suit denying their work was problematic. Too much time has passed to bring a case against Veco, CH2M Hill said.

All three said the city's allegations are vague and some are impossible to answer.

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