Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Mechanical failures continue to plague work

After state regulators loosened restrictions on in-water construction in Crescent City Harbor, the last week of March became a full bore operation of installing new steel piles for docks and rock slope protection walls - even throughout the Easter holiday weekend.

The holiday haste was necessary since construction is behind schedule and the California Coastal Commission only permitted steel pile installation to continue through the end of March, after which the agency deemed that loud drilling could harm out-migrating salmon smolts, including coho, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act, from nearby Elk Creek.

Much like last fall, however, drilling for steel piles did not go as planned, as a specialized underreamer drill bit malfunctioned last Monday after only two new piles on H dock were installed, harbor officials said.

The drill bit that failed last week was made by the same Eugene-based manufacturer that provided Dutra with a bit that failed after installing 11 steel piles in November.

Last November's mechanical failure prompted Dutra to employ a vibratory hammer to install as many piles as possible through Dec. 15, the last date when the Coastal Commission allowed drilling until March. Last week's drill bit breakdown encouraged Dutra to accelerate the delivery of a new drill bit made by a South Korea-based manufacturer, according to harbor officials.

The new drill bit from across the Pacific is a different design than the previous failure-prone part from Oregon, but it is also an underreamer expansion bit, according to harbor lead engineer Ward Stover of Stover Engineering.

An underreamer expansion bit has retractable teeth. With teeth contracted, the bit goes through the entire length of the 70-foot long, 30-inch-wide steel pile. Reaching the other end, the teeth expand just enough to drill a hole almost the same diameter as the pile. This allows piles to be installed without drilling wider holes and cementing them in place, which was the original design outlined by the harbor's engineering team.

After the new bit arrived late last week, Dutra was able to install three more steel piles; one per day from Friday through Easter Sunday, Stover said. One pile was installed for the marginal dock that leads to H dock, and two more piles were installed on H dock, amounting to four H Dock piles and one on the marginal float in this round of drilling, Stover said.

With five piles installed on H dock during this round of drilling, Dutra fell one shy of the number it needed to move forward on installing water and electrical utilities on the dock, Stover said.

The California Coastal Commission will allow drilling to commence June 1, which the agency believes is late enough to avoid harming out-migrating salmon smolts.

The agency relaxed regulations not only by greenlighting two weeks of drilling in March, bu also by allowing year-round in-water construction on rock slope walls in the inner boat basin. Previously that work was limited to June 1 through Nov. 15.

Outer Boat Basin project bids

Last week was not all bad news for Dutra, as the company's bid was the lowest submitted on Thursday for Crescent City Harbor's Outer Boat Basin project.

"It's likely going to be awarded to Dutra - assuming all of their paperwork is in order," Stover said. Acceptance of the bid is likely to appear on the harbor commission's meeting on April 16.

Dutra's bid for the project was $10,086,700, well under the engineer's estimate, which was around $10.5 million.

The only other two companies that submitted bids were Oakland-based Vortex Marine Construction with a bid of $10.9 million and Seattle-based Manson Construction Co., which had a bid more than twice the engineer's estimate at $25 million.

The Outer Boat Basin project will include excavation by dredging more than 250,000 cubic yards of material, most of it between Chart Room restaurant and Citizens Dock, except for 60,000 cubic yards north of the federal channel.

The project also includes installation of rock slope protection walls on the north side of Citizens Dock Road near the entrance of the inner boat basin, which was scoured by tsunamis.

There will be an estimated 90,000 cubic yards of excavation from the location and 21,000 tons of rock installed.

An update on current construction projects can be heard at the Crescent City Harbor Commission meeting tonight at 6 p.m. in the Flynn Center.

The commission will also consider an ordinance protecting habitat restoration and mitigation areas in the harbor, and it will discuss railing styles for the soon-to-be-installed waterfront promenade.

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