NEW BEDFORD – Two contractors who did harbor dredging for the Marine Commerce Terminal project are suing the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for more than $23 million, saying the publicly funded agency significantly understated the scope of work and underwater conditions involved.
“The elevation of the bedrock in certain areas…was much higher than anticipated, in some areas as much as 11 feet higher than indicated,” the lawsuit states. “Second, in the areas to be dredged, (the contractors) encountered boulders and cobbles in quantities and sizes far in excess of what was indicated.”
Cashman Dredging and Marine Co., of Quincy, and New Jersey-based Weeks Marine Inc. filed the civil complaint July 22 in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston. The lawsuit alleges that MassCEC not only misrepresented the scope and conditions of dredging work, but also “repeatedly denied” requests for change orders on the project.
“Fundamentally, given the actual conditions encountered, the project could not be constructed as designed. It required additional and different equipment, more time, extensive blasting, and additional permits,” attorneys wrote. “MassCEC steadfastly clung to the substantial completion date and refused to provide adequate time extensions or compensation for the additional work that (the contractors) had to perform as a result of the materially and substantially differing conditions that were encountered.”
MassCEC manages the 28-acre, $113 million facility, just inside the hurricane barrier in New Bedford’s South End. Spokesman Catherine Williams did not specifically address the allegations Monday.
“While we don’t comment on pending litigation, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center takes seriously its fiduciary responsibility when utilizing public funds, and work(s) diligently each day to accelerate the success of clean energy technologies, companies, and projects in the Commonwealth – creating high-quality jobs and long-term economic growth for the people of Massachusetts,” Williams said.
MassCEC has been searching for a long-term operator for the terminal for more than a year. Stephen Pike, the center’s interim CEO, said in May that while MassCEC will operate the facility “for the near term,” offshore wind purchase requirements could make the site more attractive to potential permanent operators.
Those requirements took a huge step toward realization Sunday night, when state legislators passed an energy bill that would require utilities to purchase contracts totaling at least 1,600 MW of offshore wind between 2017 and 2027. Turbine construction could be based at the South End terminal, which was designed to meet demands of the emerging offshore wind industry.
MassCEC awarded the harbor dredging contract to Cashman Dredging and Weeks Marine in March 2013 and gave contractors a “certificate of substantial completion” in January 2015, attorneys wrote.
The lawsuit alleges that MassCEC declined to give adequate time extensions for the project – forcing extra expenses for contractors – “because it was under political pressure to deliver the completed project by December 2014 so that the terminal would be ready for the commencement of the Cape Wind project at the beginning of January 2015.”
Cape Wind, an offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound, came to a halt in early 2015 after failing to meet financial deadlines and losing utility contracts.
Meanwhile, the terminal has a new tenant. Pike announced in May that Excel Recycling, which has an office in Westport, had signed a three-year lease to store and ship scrap metal on a 2-acre portion of the terminal.
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