Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

On Thursday evening, two Crescent City Harbor commissioners and the harbormaster happily gazed across the inner boat basin, watching the installation of the first official new piling in the

inner boat basin.

The sight was a relief after an unexpectedly long wait for the arrival of a specialized drill bit needed for piling installation.

By Friday morning, relief gave way to grief as harbor officials learned that a few of the drill bit's teeth became loose while drilling the first dock piling, harbor officials said. Drilling is on hold until the components are replaced.

On Friday afternoon, the inner boat basin construction area was unexpectedly quiet. The scene was expected to be bustling, since piling installation commenced this week.

Dutra Construction, the company contracted with rebuilding the inner boat basin, ordered replacements for the damaged drill teeth and plans to resume drilling as soon as possible, harbor officials said.

"It's a disappointment," said Harbormaster and CEO Richard Young. "Obviously we were all hoping the drilling would keep on going, but it's the facts of life. They'll get it fixed and we'll move forward."

The glitch in the equipment comes amid a rapidly shrinking work window. State regulators will not allow in-water work, including installation of pilings, from Nov. 15 to June 1.

"I'm beginning to feel a sense of urgency, but Dutra has stepped up to the plate and said they're willing to work 24/7 to complete the work they've committed to finishing by Nov. 15," said Harbor Commissioner Scott Feller.

Dutra officials have stated that their intention is to install 86 or more pilings before Nov. 15, but the contractor has ordered temporary docks for commercial fishermen to use this winter in case there is not enough space on newly installed docks, said Harbor Commissioner James Ramsey.

"My concern is making sure we have enough docks for crab season," Ramsey said."It's something that we're not in control of, and it's frustrating in that respect.But it's frustrating for Dutra as well in a lot of respects."

Ramsey said that Dutra has "owned up" to its responsibility and he sympathized with its situation.

"They're kind of at the mercy of the builder too," Ramsey said.

"The builder" of the drill bit, WVC Engineering, based near Eugene, Ore., holds the only patent for this drill bit design, called an "underreamer drill assembly."The design, which includes retractable drill teeth, allows for installing a steel piling while drilling.

While the teeth areretracted, the drill bit can be inserted through the 30-foot steel piling. Once the bit is all the way through, the teeth expand, allowing for drilling of a hole just wide enough for the steel piling to fall into.

This method of pile installation was proposed by Dutra as a way to save time and money.Harbor engineers were ultimately convinced of the method's viability. The original design called for drilling a much wider hole, precisely placing the piling in the center and then cementing the piling in place.

Harbor engineers approved the alternative method pending a series of strength tests on the new pilings.

Dutra successfully installed a test piling this week, without breaking teeth, and conducted a series of load tests on the piling Thursday and Friday.Dutra's excavator put pressure on the piling by pulling it with attached cables.

Two theodolites, precision instruments measuring angles, were pointed at the piling from opposite side of the basin. The devices were used to measure whether or not the piling shifted up or down or exhibited any deflection while under pressure from the excavator.

Results from the testing are preliminary and could not be obtained Friday.

The Harbor Commission meets at 5 p.m. at the Flynn Center on Tuesday, an earlier time due to the election. The commission will be given a staff update on the status of the inner boat basin project.

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