Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Good weather is helping to prevent crab boat congestion

After several unexpected delays put reconstruction of Crescent City Harbor's inner boat basin behind schedule, the project's lead contractor brought in more managerial staff Thursday in order to stay on schedule for the second half of the project.

Before more pilings can be installed, Dutra Construction must wait until June 1, a work window imposed by the California Coastal Commission due to potential impacts to salmonids and marine mammals near the harbor.

"As soon as the window opens we're forecasting to be under quite an intense construction season and with that level of intensity we're bringing in additional resources to finish the project," said Harry Stewart, president and chief operating officer of Dutra, by phone Friday. Stewart said the additional supervisors have been assigned to the project because of the amount of work left to do, not due to poor performance.

"They saw that their current management was overwhelmed and they brought in some additional managers to help, and I'm glad they did," said Crescent City harbormaster/CEO Richard Young. "They're behind schedule and they need to get caught up."

Also on Thursday, harbor district staff got word from Dutra that boats could be assigned to F Dock. Dutra officials had originally said that F Dock would be open for boats Jan. 15.

Fortunately for the harbor district, favorable weather has kept most commercial crab vessels out at sea and prevented congestion.

"We've had one of the best periods of weather for crab season that anyone can remember," Young said.

If ocean conditions get hairy, however, the harbor could become a zoo. Commercial fishermen prefer Crescent City to neighboring ports in Brookings and Eureka because the bar is much easier to pass, Young said.

Dutra is no longer expected to fulfill certain contractual obligations by the end of the first phase of the project in mid-February, primarily because water and electrical utilities are not yet connected to newly installed E and F docks.

Young said that "liquidated damages" could be sought due to Dutra not meeting tasks by the end of phase one, but that the district will not necessarily pursue that.

"Our goal is not to collect liquidated damages from them; our goal is to have a harbor that's functioning. I want to see docks and pilings out there - that's our goal," Young said."We need that not only to support the fishing fleet and the local economy; we need it to support our own economy."

Young said that almost every day he has had to turn away potential tenants seeking slip rentals because the district does not haveslips to offer.

Despite a rocky first year of construction, Dutra official Stewart said that the project will be finished before the final February 2014 deadline.

"There is no doubt whatever that we will deliver that harbor complete within the contractual period," Stewart said."At this point we are optimistic that we can even deliver the harbor priorto the contract completion date."

Stewart complimented Young, Ernie Perry and other harbor officials for working with the Coastal Commission to get the work window opening moved up, which would increase the chance that construction could be finished in 2013.

Design engineering for the production of more docks should go smoother this year, which will also make the work move faster, Stewart said.

"It's like a football game," Young said. "We're at halftime now. Things didn't go the way we hoped they would go in the first half. Now's the time to catch our breath and make some adjustments. Some of the adjustments they are making is to augment the management team that's here."

Other adjustments include having three "underreamer" drill bits on hand, a roughly $250,000 part that gave Dutra and harbor officials headaches when it took longer to fabricate than expected (delaying piling installation) and when it experienced a massive failure after drilling only 11 pilings.

Additionally, most of the materials for the project are now on site, including rock for rock slope protection walls and new docks, Stewart said.

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