No one can escape the basic rules of contracting, even the federal government. If the contract is clear and unambiguous, then the four corners of the agreement set the rules for the project and the parties – and there’s not much room for interpretation. The government was recently reminded of this cold, hard truth after it refused to grant a contractor an equitable adjustment of the contract price for purchasing wetland mitigation credits.
In Kiewit Infrastructure W. Co. v. United States, the government issued a solicitation for bids for the design and construction of roadways through the heart of the Tongass National Forest in Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. Part of the solicitation included a Waste Disposal Sites Investigation Report, which specified where waste could be disposed of during construction. In referring to the Report, the government’s solicitation clarified that “no further analysis of the environmental impacts of using government-designated waste sites would be needed unless an expansion of a site were proposed.” The solicitation was clear, however, that the chosen contractor would maintain responsibility for all permits and clearances, including the need for any potential wetland mitigation credits and ensuring compliance with the Clean Water Act.
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