Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

State board OKs grants; fish-cleaning station eyed

Almost $675,000 in state grants is coming to Del Norte County, funding a building in Crescent City Harbor and trail improvements in Lake Earl Wildlife Area.

The California Wildlife Conservation Board approved a $527,000 grant Thursday to construct an Americans with Disabilities Act accessible building with restrooms, hot showers and an enclosed fish cleaning station in Crescent City Harbor. The WCB also approved a $147,500 grant to replace signs, kiosks and picnic tables in the Lake Earl Wildlife Area.

The Crescent City Harbor project is one component of the harbor's larger $4.4 million revitalization, which includes construction of a promenade and a section of the California Coastal Trail.

The project is intended to transform the harbor from a primarily industrial harbor into a mixed-use harbor that puts more emphasis on recreational use and tourism.The marina's on-land makeover is concurrent with a $54 million project to reconstruct the inner boat basin and dredge the outer basin.

"We've needed something in that area for a long time - not just for local fishermen, but for folks traveling up and down the coast that need to pull into the harbor for a night or two," said harbor commission president Ron Phillips."Without that kind of money and support (from WCB) we wouldn't be able to build a facility as nice as that building is going to be."

The enclosed fish-cleaning station will alleviate a problem port officials experienced this summer, when dozens of brown pelicans died from fish waste produced at outdoor fish-cleaning stations.Some pelicans died from consuming fish carcasses. Others became hypothermic when fish oil flowing into the harbor coated the birds' feathers, minimizing the feathers' waterproofing ability.

In the new cleaning station, liquid fish waste will be disposed of through a sewer collection system and solid waste will be used for fish fertilizer and crab bait.

Lake Earl trail upgrades

Trails used for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding in Lake Earl Wildlife Area will receive new interpretive, directional and regulatory signs to improve visits to the unique public land.

"The existing informational facilities (signs and kiosks) in the wildlife area are dilapidated and falling apart, nonexistent in some areas, and in need of updating in other areas," said the official project description, adding that many picnic tables will also be replaced.

The program is a collaborative project between Smith River Alliance, Tolowa Dunes Stewards and the Department of Fish and Game.

"CDFG statistics say that Lake Earl Wildlife Area is one of the most visited wildlife areas in their northernmost region," said Patricia McCleary of Smith River Alliance."Lake Earl and Tolowa serve as a prime waterfowl hunting area during the hunting season and the open water attracts anglers, kayakers, canoeists and birders at other times."

DFG will fund $6,960 of the project.

The Wildlife Conservation Board has funded more than 20 projects in the wildlife area since the late 1970s, according to the project description.

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