Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Workers have limited days to drill pilings for harbor docks

After weeks of waiting, a specialized drill bit needed to install pilings for new docks in Crescent City Harbor finally arrived Wednesday.

Dutra Construction, the contractor awarded the project of reconstruction of the inner boat basin, attached the drill bit to pneumatic pile-driving equipment Wednesday morning, while it was hoisted high in the air by crane.

By the afternoon, the crane, while still holding the drill assembly, lifted a 30-foot steel piling up into the air and positioned it on a piling guide attached to Dutra's construction barge. Dutra was expected to finish installing a test piling Wednesday evening, and today the piling will undergo a series of tests to assess its strength.

The arrival of the drill bit marks the beginning of a mad dash as Dutra pushes to install 86 or more pilings, as promised, within a rapidly shrinking work window.In-water work, including the installation of pilings cannot be done after Nov. 15, the last day allowed by the California Coastal Commission.

Despite the limited time, Harbor Commissioner Scott Feller, while watching the drill bit installation from his truck parked in the harbor, insisted that Dutra will keep it safe as always.

"These guys are pretty safety conscious and on top of that they're hiring locally wherever they can," Feller said, adding that Dutra has hired local workers for office administration and a local construction company for the casting of H dock.

Piling installation was delayedthis summer while Dutra waited for the completion of the specialized drill bit, which is equipped with retractable teeth. The retractable teeth allow for the drill to be inserted through the hollow steel piling while the teeth are folded in.Once inserted through the 30-foot piling, the teeth can then expand, allowing the bit to drill a hole just wide enough for the steel piling to fall into.

The fabricator of the drill bit, WVC Engineering, based in Veneta, Ore., west of Eugene, holds the only patent for this design called an "underreamer drill assembly."

As commercial fishermen prepare for this winter's crab season, the anticipation is high for the installation of new docks.

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