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'Nicest harbor on the West Coast'

Construction workers were adding caps to new pilings on Tuesday afternoon at Crescent City Harbor.
Construction workers were adding caps to new pilings on Tuesday afternoon at Crescent City Harbor. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
In-water work is done, entire project slated for finish shortly after crab season begins 

Multimillion-dollar construction projects will almost inevitably endure a fair share of hiccups, but once the dust settles, construction crews leave, and the last dock in Crescent City Harbor has reliable water and electric utilities, people will 

really only care about the finished product.

“Most people agree that it will be the nicest harbor on the West Coast,” said Rick Shepherd, president of the Del Norte Fishermen’s Marketing Association, on Thursday during the harbormaster’s weekly open-door office hours.

Richard Young, CEO and harbormaster of the West Coast’s newest port, said that when a representative of Ben C. Gerwick, one of the project’s lead engineering firms, toured the nearly-completed harbor last week, he was impressed with the execution of the $54 million reconstruction design. 

Friday was the last day that Dutra Construction, the project’s lead contractor, was permitted to conduct in-water work due to state regulators’ concerns over impacts to threatened nearby salmon.  But unlike last November, the in-water deadline was not an issue this year as the project has been structurally complete for weeks.

“We’re in a lot better shape this year than last year,” Young said. “We’re very happy that Dutra has made enormous progress this year.”

There’s always room for improvement, however, as the majority of docks are still without water hookups and the commercial Dungeness crab season north of Mendocino County starts in less than two weeks.  

Additionally, Crescent City Harbor has not been able to collect slip rental revenue on any of the new docks yet, as Dutra Construction has not officially turned over any of the docks to the harbor district.  

Under the original construction schedule, the harbor would have taken ownership of  several docks last year, allowing the cash-strapped district to charge rent. Instead, the harbor will gain ownership of the docks one at a time over the next few weeks as water utilities and other final details are finished. 

Electricity utilities for all docks is expected to be completed this week, along with the last installations of the white pile caps, which are designed to protect pilings from water and air corrosion and deter birds from sitting or nesting on pilings.

Workers hose down and scrub newly installed docks on Tuesday.
Workers hose down and scrub newly installed docks on Tuesday. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
A new bathroom for the north side of the inner boat basin arrived on Monday, and the facility, which includes hot showers, a fish-cleaning station and a laundromat, should be operable by the end of the week.

Flotation devices that ease the weight of the 600-pound pile guides is being done by a specialized company, Young said, and it should be one of the last tasks left for the project.

Crescent City Harbor commissioner Scott Feller said that the entire project should be done by Dec. 15.

Freshly installed rock slope protection walls, new concrete sidewalks, and eight new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant gangways now surround the inner boat basin.

“It’s going to be a functionally working harbor that’s tourist friendly,” Feller said last week during a tour of the new facilities. 

Feller pointed to the new railings that have already been installed around several stretches of the inner boat basin as a “safety factor” that will make visitors more comfortable when walking around to observe the commercial boats of California’s most-productive Dungeness crab port.

Tsunami-resistant port

Crescent City Harbor’s inner boat basin was designed to withstand a 50-year tsunami event, or the type of tsunami expected once every 50 years, and harbor district officials and project engineers have consistently said that it is the first tsunami-resistant harbor in the western hemisphere.

One of the main components providing the strength are the 30-inch-wide steel pilings drilled at least 30 feet into the bedrock. 

A handful of the 244 pilings were found to not be installed perfectly plumb, but stress tests on docks and pilings during both high and low tide were found to still exceed the strength outlined in design specifications, Young said.

The interior docks are extra strong, built with massive concrete modules, and they attach to the pilings with 600-pound pile guides made of galvanized steel. Bellingham Marine, the manufacturer of the dock and pile guides, has called it the most technically complex project the company has ever built.

The docks, pilings and pile guides are designed to withstand the forces that come with quickly rising and falling water during tsunami surges.

The other crucial component making the marina tsunami-resistant is a “wave attenuator” designed to decrease the force of a tsunami surge.

The 400-foot-long H Dock is the first dock a surge would hit at the entrance of the harbor. It’s 7 feet tall, like an iceberg with the bulk hanging below the surface. Each 39-foot by 16-foot section of H Dock weighs 160,000 pounds, creating a massive wall of concrete that should slow down most tsunami surges. The pilings are closer together on H Dock, sometimes only an arm-span, adding to its strength.

Once the harbor district officially takes ownership of the docks, they will be able to charge for slip rentals. Some fishermen lament the rise in slip rental rates, but Young is quick to point out that the new rates are comparable to other ports in the region, and the district has to pay down a $5 million federal loan taken out to finish the project.

“Our moorage has been less than a space at the RV park over here” in the harbor, Young said.    

An update on harbor construction will be given at tonight’s meeting of the Board of Harbor Commissioners, 6:30 p.m. at the Flynn Center, 981 H Street.

Reach Adam Spencer at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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