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Press Release

Superior Court Awards State of Alaska $4.2 Million in Barge Sinking Case

March 11, 2020

(Anchorage, AK) – Today the Superior Court in Bethel issued proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, awarding the State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over $4.2 million in a case involving the Delta Chief, a barge sunk on the submerged lands of the Kwethluk River outside Bethel, Alaska on October 4, 2012.

DNR sued the barge owner, Faulkner Walsh Constructors, and related companies for failure to remove the barge as required by state law. The court granted the State summary judgment for strict liability, trespass, and public nuisance on April 18, 2018, but resolved the remaining issues of negligence and damages in today’s order. The Superior Court found that the Delta Chief’s owner breached the duty to navigate Alaska waters reasonably and safely when the captain ignored his crew’s warning that the place he selected to anchor the barge in advance of a coming storm was unsafe.

The court found this breach was the cause of the Delta Chief sinking and the damages to submerged lands of the Kwethluk.  The court awarded the State its full requested damages for barge removal of $4,234,414.00 with the opportunity to recover an additional $211,000. The State was also awarded pre- and post-judgment interest, and found to be the prevailing party for award of attorneys’ fees and costs.

DNR Senior Legal & Policy Advisor Peter Caltagirone says, “This is not only a victory for the State of Alaska, but for the residents of Bethel, Kwethluk, and other villages impacted by the barge’s continuing impact on navigation. This legal victory is a critical step in DNR’s continuing efforts toward mitigating the problem of derelict vessels abandoned on State land.”

This is an issue of first impression in the Alaska courts. “It is unfortunate the State has needed to seek this recourse against an Alaska business, but the people of Alaska and the residents of Western Alaska deserve more than the defendants’ unsuccessful attempts to lift the Delta Chief. They deserve safe and navigable waters,” says Attorney General Kevin Clarkson.

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Department Media Contact: Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr at (907) 269-5285 or maria.bahr@alaska.gov.