Some good things are happening in the Crescent City Harbor:
• The harbor has been awarded a $685,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy to design planned improvements, including a waterfront promenade, Coastal Trail segment, public restrooms and pedestrian access to South Beach from Anchor Way.
• Funds have been secured to fix the inner boat basin that was damaged by a 2006 tsunami. The project is still in the design stage, but it’s essential to maintaining a fishing fleet here for the long haul.
• Soon, fish processors will be able to hook up to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. We have one fish processing plant now, but we also lead Northern California in value of commercial seafood unloaded, so clearly there is potential for more.
• Despite delays caused by disposal issues, long-awaited dredging of the harbor’s federal channel should resume soon. Without the crucial project, fishing boats would increasingly be left high and dry.
All four of those developments speak to the benefits that accrue when harbor officials work well with other agencies, from their colleagues in Del Norte to Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The harbor itself has very limited financial resources, but through successful collaboration it’s beginning to realize some of its potential.
This is something voters should keep in mind as they assess the five-man field of candidates for two Harbor Commission seats on the Nov. 2 ballot. We need well-spoken collaborators on the commission, which is why The Triplicate endorses incumbent Ron Phillips and Kevin McKernan.
Phillips gets things done. As the special events coordinator for Rural Human Services, he has turned the Saturday Farmers Market at the fairgrounds into a highly successful enterprise. He helped bring various parties together to build momentum for the establishment of a maritime museum in the harbor. That effort may be stymied, but now there is talk of an interagency visitors center along U.S. Highway 101 at the harbor’s edge, and Phillips talks glowingly of its potential to attract more tourists.
He also, frankly, stands out as a straightforward professional on a commission that has sometimes lacked those qualities.
McKernan is the California program director for the Conservation Lands Foundation and a recreational fisherman. He offers a great chance to shake things up a bit, in a positive way. Some harbor officials, including Phillips, bristle at McKevrnan’s call for a reassessment of the harbor’s leasing policies. But those policies have led to an inordinate amount of controversies, and it doesn’t hurt to make sure the harbor is doing all it can to attract and retain quality tenants while still bringing in a fair financial return on its leases.
We’re most excited about McKernan’s potential in the aforementioned area of collaboration. We see him as a bridge builder, which is why we endorsed his candidacy two years ago (he was not elected) and still give him our support.
The other three candidates include two former commissioners, Patrick Bailey and Garry Young, who remain well-versed in harbor issues.
Young, you may recall, finished in a flat-out tie with James Ramsey in the 2008 election. Ramsey then won the position on the roll of a die.
Some would say Young’s return to the commission is crucial because he is a commercial fisherman — something currently lacking on the board. He acknowledged at The Triplicate’s recent candidates forum, however, that he doesn’t think his fellow commercial fishermen have any huge problems with the current harbor operation.
He would be a good addition to the commission, and if he doesn’t win a spot Nov. 2, he should be considered for appointment if a vacancy occurs.
Bailey is also a former commissioner who lost his re-election bid two years ago. An entrepreneur in his own right, he’s upbeat about the harbor’s potential for economic development and wants a chance to help it along.
So does candidate Kelley Thurmond, who speaks well of everyone and would bring a fresh eye to the harbor, as evidenced by his observation at the candidates forum that we should do something to restrict people’s access to the marine mammals on the docks before something untoward happens.
We all desperately want the harbor to thrive while developing into a key component of a brighter economic future for the entire region. Good things are happening, and Ron Phillips and Kevin McKernan offer the best hope of keeping us moving in the right direction.
— The Triplicate