A Pensacola oyster farmer claims a rogue barge from Skanska plowed his farm, pulling nearly 800,000 oysters ashore and causing an estimated $ 500,000 in losses.
During Hurricane Sally, 22 boats owned by construction company Skanska USA emerged untied and scattered across the bays of Pensacola and Escambia. Ships were reported to have crashed into bridges, water washed away in the backyards, and in Travis Gill’s case, they roughly ran over his life’s investments.
Jill, owner of DeLuna Oyster Co, launched his solo business in 2017. He said he made a small investment in the beginning to see if the farm was viable, and after building a good reputation and strong client base, he decided to go “all in, have a bunch of oysters.” Until recently, his plot of land in the waters of Pensacola’s southeast coast contained about 65 floating oyster cages.
The week before Hurricane Sally was spent preparing for the storm: installing the cages with pipelines, safety and making sure all his boats and equipment were properly secured. He said precautions should be enough to get his oyster farm out of the hurricane largely intact.
However, there is not much you can do to protect from the unruly battleship.
Gil said, “The battleship went in and pulled everything from the ground in a big pile.”
From a small work boat, Jill rode the choppy waters of the bay indicating places where oysters used to be. While a few were bobbing up and down the waves, most of them were stacked on the shore nearly hundreds of meters from a barge on the shore.
“(The morning after the storm) I went out to the farm to look and noticed that all of my equipment was gone,” said Jill. “There were only four damaged cages left. I was just trying to find out what happened to her, and I found her on the beach near the barges all shattered and destroyed.”
Jill managed to salvage a few cages and bring them back to the bay, but he said the vast majority of oysters and their equipment were a lost cause. He said he sent an email to Skanska at an address provided to people affected by the boats, but had not received a response yet.
Jeff Gill, Travis’s father and attorney who plans to represent DeLuna Oyster, said his son was responsible and did everything he was supposed to do to protect his and others’ possessions.
An older generation said, “We spent the whole week accounting for everything we had, but we lost everything because someone else didn’t get ready.”
Skanska representatives were not immediately available to comment on Gill’s assurances.
However, Skanska said in a previous statement that it had made “all appropriate preparations” for the storm based on forecasts showing that the hurricane was landing in the northwestern part of the Gulf near Louisiana or Mississippi. By the time the storm turned towards Pensacola, Skanska said it was neither safe nor feasible to attempt to clear the boats.
The explanation did little to please the locals.
Skanska officials confirmed that 12 of the 22 loose battleships ran into private ownership, and like Jill, many of the families were working as attorneys.
In addition, the construction company is in contact with state officials to discuss how to address the significant damage caused by two loose barges in the new Pensacola Bay Bridge, valued at $ 400 million. The damage is expected to cause the bridge to close for months, adding 30 odd miles in parked traffic to what was previously the three-mile distance between Pensacola and Gulf Breeze.
One day, when litigation, negotiation, and contemplation are all talked about and done, it’s almost certain that the bargain’s fiasco will affect Skanska’s bottom line.
But at the moment, a local farmer said it was actually affecting his ability to put food on the table.
“We’ll try to recover,” said Jill of the oyster farm. “It takes 12-15 months for oysters to grow to market size, so it will take 12-15 months before I have more to sell again. … (Meanwhile) we just have to find some other income sources. . We will have to find something to make some money at the time of downtime. “