Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Harbor finally cuts the ribbon on its $54M reconstruction

The Crescent City Harbor District cut the ribbon Saturday to officially open the first tsunami-resistant marina on the West Coast, celebrating accomplishments that lead to the finished project while acknowledging challenges that lie ahead.

Wes White, president of the harbor district, said he was proud of the $54 million reconstruction, which he called "the largest project that has ever been done in Del Norte County," and applauded the pioneering design as appropriate for one of the country's most tsunami-prone ports.

"We're proud to have the design of a harbor that is tsunami-resistant, and we're going to find out whether this baby really holds up," White said.

'Hero of the day'

While much time was spent thanking and congratulating the many parties involved with designing, funding. finding funding, supporting, collaborating and building the harbor designed to withstand 50-year tsunamis, the man of the hour was outgoing harbormaster/CEO Richard Young.

"(He) really kept his cool through this whole deal," said John Driscoll, district representative for Congressman Jared Huffman, who also delivered proclamations from Del Norte's former congressman, Mike Thompson, and Sen. Barbara Boxer. "To have the responsibility of leading the effort to fix it all is amazing. He's a guy with great vision, someone who looked beyond just getting the harbor back into working order but actually made it something that generations to come will use."

White introduced Young as the "hero of the day" and thanked Young's wife for putting up with the long nights and weekends Young spent grinding away at the office to keep the project on track.

"Gee, I never felt like a hero. It just felt like it was something that we all had to do," Young said. "It was a community that built this harbor and every one of you should be proud of where we are today."

Young spoke about the tough decision the harbor's team made to do it the right way instead of quickly, pushing through four years of design and permitting for a tsunami-resistant port rather than rebuild a marina that would be easily knocked out again.  He thanked the state and federal funding agencies that ponied up $49 million to see it built, the myriad funding, permitting and regulatory agencies involved, and Del Norte County, which partnered with the harbor to secure a $5 million grant used for the project.

"It takes a team, and we had a wonderful team here," Young said. "Everybody pulled together to make this happen."

Harbor commissioners surprised Young by renaming the inner boat basin work dock in his honor.

"You almost never get a chance to see an entire harbor rebuilt; what a wonderful opportunity," Young said. "We have a dock here called Citizens Dock because the citizens of Del Norte County built it, and in large measure we should call this 'the community harbor' because it took the entire community to get it rebuilt so thank you one and all."

Looking ahead

White left the ribbon-cutting to Young "as the guy that made this new harbor feasible" and the new harbormaster, Charlie Helms, "who is going to make this harbor more viable economically," White said.

The harbor has a vision, White said, to build an interagency visitor center on Highway 101 and tap into more tourism for the harbor.

Young highlighted coastal trail improvements and viewing platforms that will be completed this year at the port, while acknowledging the challenge of paying back the $5.4 million taken out for the district's project contribution.

"That's going to be difficult to meet going forward, but I think we're up to the challenge. And I'm sure that with Charlie Helms in place we'll answer that challenge," Young said.

Helms said it was an honor to be there, and "We're not going to move forward unwless we have the help of the entire community and everybody working together. So I look forward to working with all of you in the future as we keep growing."

David Finigan, chairman of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, congratulated the whole community for getting behind the harbor project, and challenged it to rally behind the county's remaining priority infrastructure projects: Highway 199 improvements and the Crescent City airport's runway safety project.

"Just as this harbor is resistant to tsunamis," Finigan said, "let this community be resistant to those little tidal waves that would stand in our ways of turning this into a community that is safe, healthy and economically viable for ourselves and for our children for years to come."

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