As it searches for new tenants for a $113-million port terminal in New Bedford, Mass., that was set to stage huge turbines for the now-halted Cape Wind offshore wind project, a state agency faces a $23-million breach-of-contract lawsuit from the 28-acre facility’s two key contractors, Cashman Dredging and Marine Co. and Weeks Marine Inc., over scope deficiencies.
The civil suit filed on July 22 by the firms, based in Quincy, Mass., and Cranford, N.J., respectively, claim that the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center failed to provide an accurate picture of conditions under the city’s harbor (a federal Superfund site) and the scope of work involved in construction of the Marine Commerce Terminal site. The work, which began in 2013, was completed in 2015. The state agency, also known as MassCEC, also rejected the contractors’ requests for change orders and schedule adjustments needed to deal with the more complicated conditions discovered under the harbor, according to the complaint filed in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston.
The contractors contend that the agency “refused to grant a time extension despite the acknowledged scope of work because it was under political pressure to deliver the completed project by December 2014 so the terminal would be ready for commencement of the Cape Wind project,” says the suit. A plan to build that 130-turbine offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound collapsed in 2015 when electric utilities pulled out of the project, citing blown deadlines. It also had a number of vigorous opponents, although its developers still hold a lease in 46 miles of offshore area through 2041.
The suit claims that problems with the project began when bidders were given inaccurate geotechnical surveys. In scope technical documents, MassCEC indicated that “the area to be dredged would primarily consist of silt, sand and gravel, with some occasional cobbles and small boulders,” say the contractors. After starting work in 2014, the firms began “encountering large quantities of cobbles and boulders of a size far beyond that which a reasonable contractor would expect,” they contend.
The difference had wide-ranging effects on the project, as the original plan called for contractors to use dredged material as fill. Instead, most of the fill dredged was unusable, forcing the firms to bring in material from other locations. The inaccurate scope also underestimated the amount of harbor bedrock, which was 11 ft higher in some areas. “Given the actual conditions encountered, the project could not be constructed as designed,” says the complaint. Matt Kakley, an agency spokesman, did not respond to the complaint’s charges.
According to media reports, the site gained a partial tenant earlier this year, a scrap-metal recycler, and seeks a long-term operator. State legislators also passed an energy bill on Aug. 1 that would require utilities to purchase at least 1,600 MW of offshore wind between 2017 and 2027. At least one developer, Denmark’s Dong Energy, has announced plans to develop Bay State Wind, a 1,000-MW project 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.