Port expansion manager urges dismissal of lawsuit

ANCHORAGE — A lawsuit filed against the firm that formerly oversaw expansion of the Port of Anchorage should be dismissed, the company’s attorney said Thursday.

Kurt Hamrock told a federal judge that as a federal contractor, Integrated Concepts and Research Corp. is protected by sovereign immunity, just like the federal government, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Hamrock also said company did nothing outside the scope of its contract. Only actions exceeding the contract provisions can be the basis for a lawsuit, Hamrock said.

“By contrast, here the allegations of negligent conduct focus on conduct and more specifically decisions that were made as part of the contract work,” he said of the city lawsuit.

Construction on the troubled Port of Anchorage expansion project has been mostly halted since the 2009 construction season. The city is seeking millions to replace new dock sections that buckled and separated.

The municipality in March sued ICRC and two engineering companies, PND Engineers and CH2M Hill.

A federal agency, the Maritime Administration, had an agreement with the city to oversee the work and administer contracts. ICRC recommended and MARAD approved an open cell sheet pile design made up of U-shape steel cells that were supposed to connect to form a new dock face.

A federally commissioned study in 2012 concluded that design of the dock sections was flawed and that the design could fail in a major earthquake.

Bennett Greenberg, representing the city, said ICRC’s work was sorely deficient as indicated by “the mess we have out there today.”

He noted the 2012 study and said ICRC directed the placement of riprap where contractors would later try to drive piles. ICRC directed subcontractors to persist in installing steel piles when it was evident they were not going in correctly, Greenberg said. The company was deficient in quality control, he said.

“Certainly the government didn’t contract with ICRC to perform their tasks in a negligent manner,” he said.

A federal audit determined construction project costs between 2003 and 2011 escalated from $211 million to $1 billion.

The city last week announced CH2M Hill had signed a five-year, $30 million contract to take over management of port expansion. A new design firm also will be picked.

As of early last year, $439 million in mostly state and federal money had been reserved for the project and $130 million remained unspent.

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