California port builds $54 million tsunami-resistant harbor

Updated Nov 28, 2012
Crescent City’s lighthouse overlooking Battery PointCrescent City’s lighthouse overlooking Battery Point

Port officials from the California coast town of Crescent City are spending $54 million to build the West Coast’s first harbor able to withstand the toughest tsunamis, the Associated Press reported.

The funding for the new structure was spurred by a tsunami that hit the California coast in 2011. Sparked by a Japanese earthquake, the tsunami sank 11 boats in Crescent City, damaging 47 others and destroying two-thirds of the harbor’s docks. It’s the kind of tsunami thatstrikes approximately every 50 years.

Upon deciding a tidal gate would prove too costly, officals decided on a dock that could withstand the massive waves of a tsunami. The new harbor will feature 244 new steel pilings at 30 inches in diameter and 70 feet long, a 16-foot-long and 8-foot-deep dock near the entrance to dampen incoming waves and pilings extended 18 feet above the water to prevent surges 7 ½ feet up and 7 ½ feet down from ripping docks loose. At least 30 feet of the structure will be sunk into bedrock.

Although Crescent City wasn’t the only port to be struck by the tsunami in March 2011 — Santa Cruz, California, and Brookings, Oregon, incurred damage as well — it took the hardest hit. Crescent City is often the hardest hit and sees more tsunamis than other coastal cities.

The port still has some construction setbacks to overcome such as funding and a broken custom-built drill bit. However, once the delays have passed, construction of the tsunami-resistant harbor will likely be in full-swing.