Coastal Voices: Harbormaster gives update

Kyle Curtis

Mark Twain once said, "Don't tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly don't tell them where they know the fish."

Crescent City is a place where the people know the fish. Since the March tsunami, a lot of fish stories have been told and retold here, some of them factual, some partly factual, and some based on no facts at all.

Right now, the harbor is the topic of many of these fish stories. I want to end the speculation by explaining the harbor's goals for the reconstruction of the inner boat basin, and based on the best information we have now, presenting the most likely time frame for reaching significant milestones.

The harbor's primary and highest goal is to have a safe and

productive crab season, both for the local fishing fleet and for the

community. Crab fishing is a major source of income for individuals and

families here in Del Norte County. It is the most significant fishery we

have on the North Coast, and Crescent City is the most productive

harbor on the North Coast.

Crab fishing occurs at a time of year when the weather is bad and

fishing is dangerous. Fishermen need a safe place to moor their vessels

when they return from fishing. The Harbor Commissioners and staff are

doing everything possible to provide that safe moorage in time for the

2011 crab season.

The process of rebuilding the harbor is occurring on a number of

levels simultaneously. Some of these are visible and obvious, such as

the delivery of temporary docks. Others are not so apparent, such as the

multiple, complex tasks required to obtain permits from the regulatory

agencies that oversee and govern every step of the rebuilding process.

The first and most important step in the rebuilding process is

dredging. The March 11 tsunami left approximately 75,000 cubic yards of

sand in the inner boat basin. We must get rid of this material through

dredging before other important steps can proceed. We need to repair the

rock riprap around the harbor, install new pilings, and place new

docks, but dredging comes first.

We are working with regulatory agencies including the California

Coastal Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental

Protection Agency, and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board to

obtain dredging permits. We have also been consulting with Fish and

Wildlife, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the National

Marine Fisheries.

The regulatory agencies have been very responsive to our needs, but

even under the best of conditions this is a lot of work, takes many

hours, and requires a lot of paperwork. We are making significant

progress, but the progress is not easily measured nor visible.

You cannot walk around the harbor and watch any of this happening,

yet it is the foundation of the major operations that will follow.

In support of the permit process we have contracted with a firm to

analyze the new materials in the inner boat basin. Core samples will be

taken during the week of June 13, and we expect to receive initial

results from the physical and chemical analysis by June 27. More

comprehensive biological analysis results should be available by late


Our goal is to have all the required permits and contracts in place

so that dredging can begin by Aug. 22. We hope to have the dredging

proceed continuously (24 hours per day) so that the process will be

finished by late September.

When the dredging has been completed, the harbor will install

temporary docks so that the inner boat basin will be available to the

approximately 85 vessels of our home fishing fleet. Our goal is to have

this done by Oct. 15, a date when the weather becomes undependable.

The temporary docks, which were delivered on June 7 and 8, are not a

viable long-term strategy for moorage. They are, however, the best

short-term solution we have to get the harbor ready for the upcoming

crab season. The docks were obtained at no cost to the harbor. We

obtained a commitment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to

pay for the costs associated with transporting the docks to Crescent

City from San Francisco West Marina.

The harbor plans to provide temporary moorage for crab season by

using a combination of these temporary docks and renovation of the

existing docks. The temporary docks will be used as walkways to allow

fishermen access to boats, but boats will need to be tied to piling or

moorings. In the future, the temporary docks will be replaced with

purpose-built, custom, permanent docks that will provide a home to our

fleet that is better than what we had prior to the tsunami.

A lot has been happening at the harbor, and a lot is about to happen.

There are far too many projects moving forward to discuss them all in

this brief column. I hope this is just the first of many regular, timely

updates about the progress being made to restore, rebuild, and

revitalize the harbor.

In the meantime, if you have questions about the harbor, or would

just like to know more about the progress we are making, you are welcome

to come to the open discussion sessions with me on Thursdays at 3 p.m.

at the harbor office, or to attend the public sessions of the Harbor

Commission meetings (first and third Tuesday of each month, 6:30 p.m.,

at the Flynn Center).

Richard Young is the Crescent City harbormaster.

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