Santa Cruz Harbor rebuilding after 2011 tsunami

March 9, 2012 9:09:59 PM PST
The effects of that devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan one year ago are still being felt in the Bay Area. More than two dozen California harbors saw more than $100 million in damages. The Santa Cruz Harbor was one of the hardest hit.

Capt. Joseph Rodgers remembers the tsunami that hit Santa Cruz like it was yesterday.

"The water was rolling out of the harbor like someone was flushing a toilet and it came back just as fast," Rodgers said.

The tsunami surges slammed the coastal community one year ago damaging 23 of the harbor's 29 docks. The repair bill will total $17.5 million. Two of the docks have been completely replaced; construction or design on another 11 are underway and one year later, the port director is thrilled with the pace of progress.

"We were able to demolish, design, bid and reconstruct U Dock in less than four months so that was a record setting completion date," Santa Cruz Port Director Lisa Ekers said.

Despite the damage, the harbor is fully functioning and some people say that after the initial cleanup, they haven't noticed any interruption to business as usual.

"I don't think the harbor activity has been restricted by the tsunami," boat owner Dan DeGrassi said.

State and local emergency response managers used the one year anniversary to tour the harbor. They point out improvements to mapping tsunami zones and tout buoys in the ocean offering an early warning system of future events.

"They will know, real time, here's where the waves are coming, here's the timing and here's the size of the inundation, so it's critical," Calif. Emergency Management Agency Asst. Secretary Stephen Sellers said.

Experts say putting up tsunami warning signs are also critical. In some cases, they will direct residents and tourists to higher ground.

"I think it also creates a sense of awareness and when you drive by and look at the signs you remember what happened last march 11, 2011 and you think of tsunamis in general," Santa Cruz County OES spokesperson Paul Horvat said.

For Rodgers, there is no forgetting the tsunami's impact, but even California's hard hit harbors are recovering.

"They're moving fast and I think they are doing a marvelous job here and I'm not just saying that because I happen to be a slip renter but I see it," Rodgers said.

The port director expects all of the repairs to be completed by next year.


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