Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Workers anxious to start job crucial for crab season

With just five weeks left in the work window that allows for in-water work, Crescent City Harbor District officials are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a specialized drill bit necessary to install pilings into the bedrock of the inner boat basin.

Dutra Construction, the company chosen to complete reconstruction of the inner boat basin, committed to having at least 86 pilings installed by Nov. 15 (the last date when state agencies will allow in-water work), but it needs that drill bit first.

"In Dutra's defense, this is probably one of the most frustrating issues they are dealing with right now because they are not getting answers from their fabricator," said harbor engineer Ward Stover during last week's meeting of the Crescent City Harbor Commission.

Harbormaster Richard Young said that when Dutra ordered the part, it was promiseda two-week delivery, but it's been six weeks since the order.

Dutra sent two representatives to Eugene, Ore., where the fabricator is located, to oversee completion and they expect to come back with the drill bit Monday, Young said.

Young received a verbal commitment from Dutra's regional project Manager, Jim Galli, that the company will do and spend whatever it takes to install the 86 pilings before Nov. 15 in order tohave docks available for this year's crab season, including working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Dutra's crew is prepared and poised to start drilling next week as soon as the bit arrives. Six of the 38-foot sections of the main docks had arrived by Wednesday, and the docks will continue to arrive, Young said.

Harbor officials and consultants hired by Dutra had hoped to get the in-water work window (set by the California Coastal Commission) extended, but time is running short.

"The reality is I do not expect a work window extension by Nov. 15 because it's too late in the game for that at this point," Young said at the meeting.

The specialized drill bit is needed for an alternative piling installation method that Dutra proposedinstead of the harbor engineers' original design.

The original design called for drilling a 48-inch diameter hole inside a conductor sleeve that would trap mud and debris, locate the 30-inch piling precisely in the hole, and then cement the piling in place.

Dutra's proposed method would use the 30-inch-diameter piling sleeve as the conductor case, eliminating a few steps and saving money, Young said.

During last week's meeting, Stover told the Harbor Commission that the harbor's "engineer team has been satisfied" with information provided by Dutra's engineers regarding the viabilityof the alternative method.

"The installation method is equal to the one that was originally designed," Stover said at the meeting, adding that the method is becoming increasingly more common in the Alaskan area where there is more bedrock.

Stover said Dutra's engineers will drill a couple feet deeper than originally designed and a plan has been outlined to test the pilings' strength. Dutra also has contingency plans to strengthen the design if the testing shows any problems, Stover said.

"This method is less intrusiveand less impactive than the method we were planning on doing before," Stover said.

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