Anchorage

City settles with remaining contractors in port lawsuit for a fraction of claimed loss

The city of Anchorage has reached settlements with three remaining contractors involved in the botched Port of Anchorage expansion project, ending a lawsuit that stretched nearly three years and recouped only a fraction of what the city had sought in damages.

Engineering firm CH2M Hill Alaska Inc. paid the city $1.5 million, according to the settlement filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. CH2M Hill was sued because it acquired Veco Corp. after Veco became mired in a corruption scandal. Veco actually worked on the port project.

The port designer, PND Engineers Inc., and another designer, GeoEngineers Inc., each settled for $750,000.  

In all, seven private contractors settled with the city for about $19 million total. The city had sought more than $100 million in damages. The port expansion cost more than $300 million and left the city with a dock that couldn't be used or fixed.

A statement Tuesday from the law firm that represented PND Engineers, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, highlighted the small size of the settlement relative to what the city had sought in damages. Attorney Lisa Marchese called it "nuisance value."

A separate statement from the company defended PND's proprietary sheet pile design — which the city said should never have been used for the Port of Anchorage. The PND statement described the case as "motivated not by the facts of the situation, but by the political fallout from a project that has been mired in challenges."

"We are happy to settle this meritless suit against us for less than the cost of going to trial, and move on with the business of engineering," Jim Campbell, the president of PND, said in a statement.

Attorneys for CH2M Hill couldn't immediately be reached; an attorney for GeoEngineers, Terence Scanlon, declined to comment.  

City attorney Robert Owens said the case was complicated because the "more active players" tended to have smaller insurance policies or bank accounts. Last week, the city reached a $3.75 million settlement with Integrated Concepts and Research Corp., the construction project manager, which held all the contracts in the case but had very few assets.

"In the big scheme of things, we had hoped that the lawsuit would result in a greater recovery," Owens said. "But we had to live with the practicalities as we found them."

Owens said the city learned a lot about the science of the project and how it was managed.

He said that knowledge will be useful as the city pursues its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration, the federal agency that oversaw the project.

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