Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Jan. 15 crab season start means more docks in place

Northern California's six-week delay to this year's commercial crab season means that Crescent City Harbor will be more prepared for all the crustacean commotion that comes with harvest.

Crescent City crab fishermen have recently voiced concerns over the amount of dock space that would be available this season in a harbor hastily rebuilding in the wake of the crippling March 2011 tsunami.

The Northern California Dungeness season that was scheduled to open Dec. 1 has been repeatedly delayed due to thin-on-meat crabs in the region, and will now open Jan. 15.

The delays mean that there is a greater chance that more freshly installed docks will be available for crab fishermen to use by the season opener.

"It's going to help, that's for sure," said Crescent City Harbor Commission President Ron Phillips on Wednesday. "Any delay to the opening of crab season just gives them that much more time to get the docks installed."

Dutra Construction, the lead contractor for the inner boat basin reconstruction project, successfully installed 73 steel pilings by Dec. 15 - the last day state agencies allowed in-water work due to concerns over the effects that it could have on salmonids returning to spawn in Elk Creek.

Dutra had originally expected to install at least 86 pilings before the end of this year's in-water work window, but construction was delayed by equipment failures and waiting for parts.

Although more new pilings cannot be installed until June 1, dock installation work is allowed and will continue through the winter and spring. Ultimately, harbor and Dutra officials expect to be able to provide roughly the same number of slips as were available last season.

New slips on E Dock in the northwestern corner of the inner boat basin were structurally completed this week, just needing electricity and water hook-ups to be finished.

Last week during a Harbor Commission meeting, Harbormaster/CEO Richard Young relayed Dutra's estimated dock installation schedule, which listed structural completion of F Dock for Jan. 15.

Dutra expects to finish electrical and water for E and F docks in early February, Young said.

"We have a list of 50 boats or so that requested slips in the harbor, and we are not going to be able to accommodate all 50 boats," Young said at the meeting. "We will accommodate as many as we can, but we have limited space and we've advised people not to come here - not to count on slips."

Harbor staff has told inquiring vessel operators that they can come to Crescent City's port to seek shelter from storms, but they will have to anchor in the outer boat basin.

"That's the unfortunate state of the harbor at this point," Young said at the meeting, emphasizing that the harbor district does not own the new docks until Dutra officially hands them over to the district.

But Phillips said he trusts that the harbordistrict will find spots for the local vessels to tie up.

"I have faith in our staff that they'll get it done," Phillips said.

The Harbor Commission has postponed its next regulary scheduled meeting, which landed on New Year's Day.  Instead, the commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the harbor district office, 101 Citizens Dock Road.

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