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Dropped turbine part could lead to lawsuit

A claim might be filed against the Port of Lewiston after a wind turbine component being unloaded from a barge dropped 8 to 10 feet.

Omega Morgan, a company involved in handling the cargo, sent the Port of Lewiston a notice of intent to file a claim that doesn’t specify an amount after an Oct. 23 mishap involving a base of a wind turbine tower, Port Manager David Doeringsfeld said.

The port and Omega Morgan plan to have different experts examine the tower base to see how much, if any, damage happened when it was being moved by a port crew using a port crane, said Doeringsfeld, who spoke at a Wednesday port commission meeting.

He said he has seen the equipment and is “optimistic” that no damage will be found.

Omega Morgan has a different take. Its notice states its customer suffered a loss and that the “cause of loss appears to be due to failure of Port of Lewiston owned & operated equipment.”

What happens next will depend on a number of factors, including the contract governing both parties, Doeringsfeld said.

The port has a primary insurance policy that could cover as much as $1 million and an umbrella policy with an additional $5 million in coverage, he said.

Only one port commissioner commented on Doeringsfeld’s update.

“I’m just glad that nobody was hurt,” said Jerry Klemm. “That’s really important.”

The component is part of a large project expected to generate at least $100,000 for the port. Pieces of 42 wind turbines shipped from the Port of Longview in southwestern Washington are being transferred from vessels onto trucks at the Port of Lewiston to be hauled to Alberta, Canada.

The equipment is being trucked north on U.S. Highway 95 to Interstate 90 in Coeur d’Alene, where it heads east into Montana and then north to the Canadian border. Some of the shipments are 270 feet long, more than triple the length of a standard truck.

The work initially was expected to be done by the end of December, but early cold, snowy weather appears to be extending that time frame, Doeringsfeld said.

“That’s not a problem to us,” he said. “We appreciate (the) business. The longer they’re here, the better it is for us. We’re more than happy to accommodate them.”

In other business, the port commissioners approved 2 percent raises for Doeringsfeld and assistant manager Jaynie Bentz.

The increases were in addition to a 3 percent hike Doeringsfeld and Bentz received July 1. Doeringsfeld now makes $120,945 a year while Bentz is at $76,005 annually.

The commissioners made the changes partly because the compensation for Doeringsfeld and Bentz didn’t align with pay of others in the industry doing similar work, said Port President Mike Thomason.

“(This) has been an extremely difficult year,” Thomason said, “because things got busier and resources were difficult to pull together.”