This is in response to the editorial, "We Are Not Destroyed," in Saturday's paper.
Communication with the Harbor Commission in recent years has been minimal. I hope to correct that, at least somewhat, with my presidency.
To begin with, this has been a long process since the 2006 tsunami. Once we were qualified for state aid, the previous board started the process of finding funding to rebuild. They did an excellent job by finding and receiving "grant" funds for the entire project. That means that there will be little or no out-of-pocket expense to the harbor or our community. This is an example of state government working for the better of its people. At this point, the process gets bogged down.
Once funding was achieved, the question of how much came into view. During the best of time the state can be a little stingy with its funds for a project like this, a disaster for a "small" community. However, at this point, an argument began. Would the state fund for a 10-year disaster, a 25-year, a 50-year or a 100-year?
To further complicate things, there had never been any real
discussion of how to rebuild the inner basin and what is an improvement,
and what is a rebuild. There also had never been a study done on how
the current design is affected by the flow of a tsunami within the inner
basin. All of these questions had to be answered before the funding
could begin. Furthermore, getting permits now depends on which plan is
Our engineer, Ward Stover, proceeded to answer all of the above
questions. The study came first. After extensive work a detailed
document was produced to show how the current in the inner basin causes
most of the damage. It also showed what type of docks and such would
stand up to what type of tsunami. Upon its completion the 50-year plan
was recommended. Under this plan we would have received little or no
damage in last Friday's event. When we went to the permitting and the
funding agencies, the argument ensued.
To begin with, the state in all its wisdom, only wanted to fund the
10-year plan. This means every 10 years on average we would again be in
the same boat of finding funding to rebuild to the tune of $13 million.
The commission and our engineers had to prove that, through study and
such, it would be better to spend $22.5 million and put the 50-year plan
in place. In the long run, and this became a long-running argument
which has persisted throughout my two-and-a-half years on the board, it
would save the state millions in taxpayer dollars over the life of this
We also decided to go into the permitting process, at the same time
as negotiating with the funding agencies, in order to hopefully speed
things up. Of course the permitting then was transferred from one board
to the next numerous times, because no one was going to approve
something that hadn't been funded yet. Just since I have been on the
board, the Coastal Commission has put us on the meeting agenda and
removed us at least four times. Each time added about three to four
months to the permitting process. This is not a real knock on Coastal
Commission, it is simply how the state permitting agencies work. It has
been very frustrating to me, a teacher who wants to get things done, but
it is a learning process.
We have now been approved for both funding and permits for rebuilding
from the 2006 tsunami damage. Building should begin this summer,
hopefully sooner because of this new disaster and the dire need for both
our fishing community and the economic engine in our county. We are 60
percent completed with the design process and rapidly moving forward at
this point. With the great response from the community, the state, and
even at the national level, perhaps we will get started more quickly and
with more funding.
I hope this sheds some light on the long and exhausting procedure
that this has been. I hope to communicate with you more often in the
coming months, especially as building and rebuilding proceeds. If you
have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at home 464-7195.
James Ramsey is president of the Crescent City Harbor Commission.