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Harbor dredging now priority one

By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

New Crescent City Harbor Commissioner Mario Deiro is getting serious about solving the harbor's standing list of repeat problems.

Deiro is turning his elected seat into a full-time job and is striving to work with the public to check problems off the list.

First on that list is dredging. Getting the harbor deep enough to accommodate the businesses that rely on keeping sand and mud from building up will be the focus of a new permanent Maintenance and Operations Committee which meets at 9 a.m. next Tuesday in the Harbor District office.

"We're going to get specific answers. How many times have you heard complaints about the dredging issue at the harbor meetings the last few years? It's time to address the continuing issues coming to the board and resolve them one way or the other and move to the next thing," Deiro said.

He and Harbor Commissioner Garry Young will lead the new committee with help from maintenance supervisor Alan Tromble and Chief Executive Officer Rich Taylor. The public is also invited.

The goal, said Deiro, is to limit the time to one hour and focus on one major topic to get it resolved.

It takes five different permits from several different government agencies to be able to dredge the harbor.

Four of those permits last 10 years.

The problems and complaints about dredging started a few years ago when the previous chief executive officer let some of the permits lapse and submitted others that were poorly written.

Owner of Abalone International Chris Van Hook – who claims his business went under because the harbor didn't keep the harbor dredged – said the old permits were written to restrict dredging during herring spawning season and the Noll Surf Contest.

The permit applications were also submitted by the previous harbor staff, he said, that claimed protected plant species were growing on the manmade mud berms around the dredge disposal ponds.

Deiro said it took two years for the present staff to renew the current set of permits.

"So now we need to sit down and make a schedule so that eight years down the line, someone will get started on the next set of permits before these expire," Deiro said.

Though permits are not a problem at the present time, where to put the mud and sand is.

The disposal pond designed for the spoils is full and piled high.

It is the only place the harbor is allowed to put the spoils from the section of harbor needing to be dredged.

Possible solutions will be laid out at the committee meeting.

Though several alternatives have been tossed around at many Harbor District meetings, Deiro said "the problem is that the answers have always been ‘I think so,' or ‘I don't know' or ‘That's how it was done in the past.'"

Building a large sandtrap in the ocean just to the north of the harbor is one solution Alan Tromble suggested to keep the flow of sand from swirling into the harbor in the future.

It was mentioned that the positioning of the harbor's jetties create a kind of cage which keeps the sand in the harbor once it flows there.

Blocking the sand from coming in, in the first place, should relieve the need to constantly dredge and fill the costly disposal ponds, Tromble said.

Getting rid of the spoils already there to make room for more has proven difficult. The harbor office has been considering paying local contractors to haul it off – a cost the harbor's ailing budget can't afford.

Deiro said he and CEO Taylor will research a rumor that a company in San Francisco has a great desire for the spoils and will come take them for free.

"We need to look at all of it and make sure everyone understands, so that if people come to the harbor meetings with questions, we have clear answers. We need to resolve this dredging issue once and for all," he said.

 


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