Photos of an Anchor Way inundated with water and littered with debris following last week’s king tide event led harbor commissioners to discuss the integrity of the Whaler Island Groin and how it would fare in an era of climate change and sea level rise.
Deputy Harbormaster Lane Tavasci, who took the photos, said the harbor’s boat launch was under water, water was spilling across Anchor Way, Whaler Island Groin was filled with rock and the U.S. Coast Guard station was blocked following the king tide on Jan. 17.
Tavasci said he contacted the Del Norte County Roads division, which cleaned up debris from U.S. 101 to Starfish Way. Caltrans brought a grader, a loader and a dump truck to remove the remaining debris on Tuesday, Tavasci said.
“I do a tour of the harbor when I come in and when I got over to Anchor Way, as soon as I pulled into Starfish at the (intersection) these waves were coming in,” he said. “They were bringing basketball size rocks all the way up to the boat and wrapping it around onto the roadway.”
According to Tavasci, despite all the debris, businesses on Anchor Way were only closed for about two hours.
After seeing Tavasci’s pictures, Commissioner Brian Stone asked if the harbor district should contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to raise the rock wall to prevent waves from topping it. He also noted that the groin is also in need of repair, stating that this was discussed during the Measure C campaign last year.
“What do we do about the groin? What do we do to talk to the Corps of Engineers about protecting Anchor Way better because of this problem,” Stone asked. “It’s only going to get worse in the future with climate change and sea rise and so on. Obviously we need to fix the groin ASAP, that’s my belief. But we also want to consider what are we going to do on Anchor Way? Do we need a barrier that’s a little higher right there?”
According to Stone’s colleague, Jim Ramsey, king tides and damage as a result of winter storms have been an issue the harbor has dealt with for several years. He noted that while the Whaler Island Groin is in need of repairs, commissioners should “prioritize things.”
“It is something that’s been going on for years,” Ramsey said, adding that he thinks repairs to the outer boat basin seawall should be more of a priority. “Every time there’s a major storm with high king tide heights, this happens. I’m not sure what we can do with it to prevent it even if the groin is repaired because it would be a matter of digging up Anchor Way, raising it, and then putting more rock slope protection on the outer side.”
Though the rock wall along Anchor Way is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, Whaler Island Groin is owned by the State Department of Boating and Waterways, according to Helms.
Measure C is the voter-approved initiative that increased the transient occupancy tax on hotels and motels in the county from 8 percent to 10 percent and established a 2 percent TOT on RV spaces within the county.
Passing with 54.64 percent of the vote following the November 2018 election,
the revenue generated from the tax will help the harbor pay down its $5.4 million loan with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and make needed repairs to harbor facilities such as the Whaler Island Groin, Citizens Dock and outer boat basin seawall.
Helms noted that finding a way to finance repairs to the seawall and other harbor facilities is one of the items included in its part of the Del Norte County Multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan that four commissioners approved on Tuesday. Commissioner Rick Shepherd was absent.
According to Helms, the county hired Portland-based Tetra Tech to update the Hazard Mitigation Plan with input from the city, harbor and other local governments. The plan had lapsed two years ago, Helms said, which prevented him to apply for funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and California Office of Emergency Services.
After working on it for a year and a half, the plan was submitted to CalOES and FEMA. Meanwhile, Helms said, resolutions need to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, Crescent City Council and other jurisdictions before he can seek funding for ways to prevent damage from storms and tsunamis.
According to Helms, the plan is good for four years.