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HDR Readies For Battle in Tampa Bay Water Dispute

A $146-million reservoir project in Florida that was once the pride of utility Tampa Bay Water and engineer HDR Engineering is now the focus of a high-stakes, increasingly public legal battle between the two parties.

The dispute has gone public lately, with HDR creating a website, www.tbwlitigation.com, that includes court filings and a "spin checker" to debunk TBW's claims. Behind the public dispute are insurance-driven legal strategies involving tens of millions of dollars.

In a federal lawsuit tentatively scheduled for trial in 2012, Tampa Bay Water seeks $97 million from HDR Engineering, Omaha, to help fund interior embankment repairs in the six-year-old, 15.5-billion-gallon C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir. TBW plans to rip out the existing reservoir's interior and replace it. The agency hired Kiewit Infrastructure Group South, Peachtree City, Ga., to handle $121 million in repairs, even though TBW and HDR agree the most significant cracking is limited to only 6% of the embankment area.