Crew poised to begin dismantling beached tsunami dock starting today

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — A salvage crew’s plan to begin work today to remove a dock from Japan that washed up on a remote beach in December could be delayed if rough weather grounds a helicopter intended to lift out pieces of the structure.

“Crews are in Forks preparing, waiting for the weather and tides,” Keeley Belva, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, said Thursday.

Work by the Undersea Co. of Port Townsend can be done safely only during daylight hours at low tide on the narrow stretch of beach between the Hoh River and LaPush where the 185-ton dock has lodged.

A series of daytime low tides begins today, conditions called a “tide window,” but work depends on whether the storms take a break at the right time.

Rainstorms coming in from the Pacific have made the operation iffy, Belva said.

“They’re getting quite a bit of rain,” she said.

Federal officials had hoped removal of the dock could begin as early as March 6 if the weather cooperated, but plans for removal were not ready.

By March 10, the tide window had closed, and the lowest tides were occurring too late in the evening to give workers enough light, according to NOAA.

The dock, confirmed debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan, landed on a beach within Olympic National Park and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

NOAA, which oversees the sanctuary, hired the Port Townsend firm to lead the removal of the 65-foot-long, 20-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall dock.

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the National Park Service each will pay $75,000 toward the $628,000 dock removal.

The remaining $478,000 will come from the Japanese government.

The dock — the fourth confirmed piece of large tsunami debris found in Washington state — was identified by the Japanese government through a serial number as coming from Misawa, a city of about 40,000 on the northern tip of the island.

Removal is expected to be complete by the end of this month.

Equipment for the removal must be carried in by foot on a trek that includes crossing Mosquito Creek or brought in by helicopter.

The dock will be dismantled in place, and the pieces will be carried away by helicopter. The dock cannot be towed off the beach at high tide because it has been severely damaged by waves and rocks since it washed ashore near the mouth of Mosquito Creek, NOAA said.

It cannot be sunk to be used as an artificial reef since it is constructed of a Styrofoam-like material encased in steel-reinforced concrete, officials also said.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 14. 2013 6:02PM
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