Crescent City Harbor was not wiped out by the tsunami. Unlike the 1964 disaster, this time every building stayed dry: the harbormaster’s offices, the seafood processing plant, the giant vessel repair shop, the art galleries and the restaurants.
Yes, the events of March 11 reconfirmed our status as the tsunami capital of the American West Coast. Whether that proves an albatross or a tourism marketing opportunity depends on how smartly we promote our little slice of coastal redwoods heaven in the future.
For now, only three messages to the outside world really matter:
• First, the community as a whole is open for business. One of the harbor restaurants was jammed with breakfast patrons the morning after the tsunami. Today at 1 p.m., volunteers will gather to help clear nearby beaches of harbor debris.
• Second, our harbor boat basin was destroyed. There is practically no place to tie up a boat in one of California’s biggest seafood ports. We’re fortunate that most of our fishing fleet made it out to sea before the surges arrived, and that this is not a particularly busy harvest season. When local vessels set sail to hunt tuna in a few months, we should have temporary docks installed to serve them. This, of course, is little solace to fishermen who no longer have boats.
• Third and most important, we desperately need immediate help from the state and federal government. A new boat basin can be built that will withstand the surges that have historically plagued our port, tsunami magnet or not. The docks had been severely weakened by a 2006 tsunami, and there was already a plan to build a new basin that engineers say would have withstood the March 11 surges. That project has just been put out to bid.
State agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard have responded admirably so far, initiating the cleanup, assessing the damage, and bringing in the necessary help to raise sunken boats and remove still-floating wrecks.
Elected officials, including Congressman Mike Thompson and state legislators, were quickly on hand to survey the harbor destination and promise that help was on the way. A trip north by Gov. Jerry Brown would have been nice. His father was governor in 1964 and made it to Crescent City within hours of that disaster. Personal visits by top leaders in times of crisis are more than photo opportunities — they lift the spirits of the beleaguered and help officials who report to them appreciate the magnitude of the need for action.
Local officials and the fishing community have also responded well, repeatedly delivering the message that The Daily Triplicate punctuates this morning:
Our fishermen and others whose livelihoods have been affected need assistance. And, Crescent City Harbor needs a new, tsunami-resistant boat basin now. Officials had five years to get this done after the 2006 surges, and it didn’t happen. This time, state and federal efforts must coalesce to find the money and clear away bureaucratic obstacles that typically delay such work.
The clock is ticking.
— The Daily Triplicate