The harbor in Crescent City, a center of commercial fishing and tourism for California's northernmost coastal city, was virtually destroyed and the economic loss could be enormous, officials said Saturday.
"This was just devastating to our community," Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson Wilson said of the damage wrought Friday by waves surging to 8.1 feet from a tsunami unleashed by Japan's worst-ever earthquake.
"It's our heritage, our history, and also the lifeblood of our community," he said.
Besides the lost income for commercial fishing crews, there would be no sport fishing, and no local catch to keep fish processing plants around the county operating, he and Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, said.
"Crescent City is already very hard-hit by this recession," Chesbro said. "This is just another heavy blow to the local economy, as well as a huge blow to the individuals whose livelihoods depend on the harbor."
Also Saturday, the man who was swept out to sea and disappeared while taking pictures of the tsunami near the Klamath River was identified as Dustin Webber, 25, who had just moved to Klamath from Bend, Ore.
In Fort Bragg, fishing resumed out of Noyo Harbor despite the loss of docks and damage to some boats.
Gregg Stevens, harbor master at Dolphin Isle Marina about a mile up the Noyo River from the ocean, was trying to figure out how to raise a long-abandoned boat that was tossed upside down into the mouth of the marina, preventing anyone from coming in or out.
"We are the only fuel dock in 160 miles of coast, so we have to get this open real quick," he said.
Dolphin Isle lost about 44 slips because of docking that broke apart in the waves, though moored boats were spared.
Closer to the mouth of the harbor, Noyo Fishing Center owner John Geber said the larger Noyo Mooring Basin had fared well.
Dozens of vessels escaped the battering because they were piloted out to deeper water. "It looked like a highway headed out the river and out to the horizon," Geber said of the 6 a.m. exodus on Friday.
Chunks of two docks were broken off and remaining boats were banged about by surging waves that raised the harbor's water level <NO1><NO>by four feet, then suddenly withdre<NO1><NO>w. The closest call involved a 40-foot vessel tethered to a dock end that broke free and was tossed about in the waves, Geber said.
"Any boat that had been in the river here would have had a real tough time yesterday. It was quite a sight to see the river flowing backward," he said.
Mendocino County Sheriff's Sgt. Shannon Barney, emergency services coordinator, said late Friday that about 400 feet of pier was lost at the Noyo Harbor.
In Crescent City, where a 1964 tsunami took 11 lives, <NO1>Sheriff<NO>Wilson said the surging water came into the recently dredged harbor with such velocity it caused a churning, whirlpool-like action that ripped apart docks and pulled boats from moorings.
Most of the larger vessels had been taken to deeper water, but at least eight still in the harbor sank, while others were damaged, causing diesel fuel and oil to seep into the harbor, he said.
Wilson said the seafaring community was still disabled by nearly $1 million in harbor damage from a 2006 tidal wave caused by an earthquake in the Kuril Islands off Hokkaido Japan and was awaiting recovery funds to start repairs when Friday's waves hit.