Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Harbor loan in jeopardy as not enough fishermen are providing needed information

If 70-some commercial fishermen continue to not submit paperwork showing that the existence of Crescent City Harbor helps provide them with a job, the harbor district could be forced to repay $2.5 million in grant funding used to rebuild the port.

Del Norte County received $5 million from the federal Community Development Block Grant program for the marina's reconstruction, under the condition that the harbor district could prove that the inner boat basin project retained at least 143 jobs.

So far, the district has only been able to document about half of the required jobs, despite offering a $100 credit for each business that participates and only requiring redacted tax information. The district only needs the first letter of each participant's last name and the last four numbers of their social security number.

"If the fishing vessels don't step forward with the jobs to document, which we know exist, the harbor will have to give back $35,000 for each job not documented and pass that cost onto the tenants in some way," said Ward Stover, the harbor's engineer.

Some individuals have contended that collection of their information is unconstitutional, but the harbor district's attorney says that it is perfectly legal.

If the harbor district cannot document all 143 jobs, it will most likely have to take out another loan to pay back the CDBG program.

"If you don't like the (slip rental) rates now, what do you think the rates are going to be like if we have to borrow more money?" said former Harbormaster/CEO Richard Young.

Fishing industry jobs provided an average of roughly $1,000 per week in 2006 and almost $2,000 per week in 2012, Young said, adding that leisure and hospitality industry jobs were just $217 and $271, for those same years, respectively.

"The reason they were able to make that money is we were able to keep this harbor open and keep it functioning so those boats had a place to tie up," Young said. "Now for people who have doubled their weekly income from 2006 to 2012, to say that they don't care about paying back the loans that built this, that they don't care that the harbor is here and is going to be here for the next 40 years for them and they don't want to provide information to help pay for it, that just seems to me to be really short-sighted and extraordinarily selfish."

Young applauded and thanked the many fishermen that have stepped up to submit information, but they need the rest to step up too, and he gave assurance that the information will remain "absolutely confidential."

"(CDBG) put $5 million into here and they didn't have to but they saw the value of this harbor to the community," Young said, adding that for those employed by the fishing industry who continue to drag their feet, "They're hurting themselves and they're hurting the whole community."

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