The legal fight over cracks in the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir finally came to an ugly end Monday.
The board of Tampa Bay Water voted unanimously to pay $21 million to HDR Engineering, the company that designed the reservoir. The board also voted to end its litigation against the company.
The settlement comes after Tampa Bay Water, which owns and operates the massive reservoir, lost its legal bid to collect more than $100 million from the engineering firm. The legal fight began more than three years ago after large cracks began appearing in the 15.5 billion-gallon reservoir, but a federal jury in April 2012 ruled the firm’s design was not defective.
After the verdict, Tampa Bay Water was ordered to pay HDR Engineering $21 million in legal costs. The utility appealed but the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal last month affirmed the decision.
In 2011, Tampa Bay Water turned down a pretrial settlement in which HDR Engineering would have paid the utility $30 million. The agency had earlier received financial payments from two other contractors involved in construction of the reservoir.
“While the outcome has fallen well short of our expectations and was not favorable for the agency, we firmly believe that trying to recoup the public’s investment through legal action was the right decision,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala, board chairman of Tampa Bay Water. “We fought hard for what is right, and now we have to do what is in the best interest of the agency and the community to bring this chapter to a close.”
The reservoir still is not operational but should be fixed by the end of next year, the utility said.
Tampa Bay Water is a regional agency responsible for providing water to utilities in Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and Tampa, St. Petersburg and New Port Richey.