Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Second equipment failure puts work further behind

Dock installation in Crescent City Harbor once again had an unexpected hiccup when the custom-built drill bit designed to install pilings experienced a "massive failure" last week, harbor officials said.

"The entire bit is being sent back to Eugene to be repaired, and it shouldn't be back until the end of next week," Young said in an interview on Monday, adding that one of the pistons that drives the pile failed.

The custom drill-bit, designed with retractable teeth, also experienced problems on Nov. 1 while drilling the first piling. Some of the retractable teeth became loose.

Piling installation continues, however, as Dutra Construction, the company chosen for the inner boat basin reconstruction project, proposed and started a different installation technique on Sunday, said Harbormaster/CEO Richard Young.

"(Dutra) thought of this on their own, and it shows how they're scrambling to do everything they can," Young said.

At least seven pilings had been installed with the new technique by Monday afternoon. At least 12 pilings were installed to design specification before the drill bit failed, Young said.

The new method involves vibrating every other steel piling ten feet into the bedrock, which should be sufficient for normal winter-weather conditions experienced in the marina since the pilings are 30 inches in diameter, Young said.

In order to get the pilings down to the specification depth of 30 feet into the bedrock, Dutra will later return with a 26-inch drill bit, which will excavate the bedrock material from the inside of the 10 feet already driven into the bedrock, Young said.

Although this method does not meet design specification, it is only a temporary measure since there are only three more days left when state agencies will allow for in-water work including piling installation, Young said. Every piling will ultimately still be installed to the specification's depth of 30-feet into the bedrock, considered a tsunami resistant design built to withstand a 50-year tsunami event.

"What we've stressed throughout this is that we're not going to compromise the integrity of the final product," Young said.

The California Coastal Commission confined in-water work to June 1 through Nov. 15 due to concerns about the effect construction noise could have on marine mammals and salmonids.

Dutra has hired consultants in an attempt to prove that sound is mostly contained within the harbor and that pinnipeds of interest and salmonids do not live in the inner boat basin. If Dutra can make their case to the Coastal Commission, the schedule constraints of in-water work could be lifted.

The executive director of the Coastal Commission could also grant a temporary extension of time, an option being pursued by harbor staff.

Last week, the Harbor District sent a letter to the Coastal Commission requesting an emergency extension of time for in-water work based on the fact that commercial crab season is dangerous and fishermen need a safe place to tie up, Young said. At the moment, there are not enough slips for all of the 80-some fishing vessels that have a contract with the harbor.

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