Mystery solved: Dock an escapee from Sequim site
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Lorenz Sollman, acting manager of the local networks of National Wildlife Refuge, carts away a piece of dock from a beach near Marlyn Nelson County Park in Sequim.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– The mysterious dock found last Sunday washed up near Marlyn Nelson County Park at Port Williams did not cross the ocean, as its discoverer suspected, before crashing onto the shore.

In fact, the owners of the dock — the Washington Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Complex based at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge — said the wooden dock didn't even leave its own ZIP code.

“We were kind of wondering where that might show up,” said Lorenz Sollman, acting manager of the refuge complex.

Sollman said when he read in the Peninsula Daily News that Jim Roberts of Sequim had spotted the dock, which is about 10 feet wide and about 20 feet long, he realized it was from the Dawley Unit on Sequim Bay, an area overseen by the wildlife refuge complex.

The county park where the dock was found sits about 6 miles north of Sequim Bay.

“I saw it in the paper and thought, 'Golly, that could be it,'” Sollman said Wednesday.

Roberts had suspected it could be wreckage washed ashore from the March 2011 tsunami that struck Japan.

Sollman and workers from the refuge went to the area near Port Williams to inspect the dock.

They realized it had broken free from the former home of Cecil Dawley, who donated the house and 130 acres west of 7 Cedars Casino as a wildlife refuge in the 1970s.

Sollman said a crew from the Washington Conservation Commission had cut the dock free to remove it while doing cleanup work at the Dawley property March 28.

Before they could come back and get it, however, it floated off and got hung up in a nearby stand of trees.

The next day, they went to retrieve it, but dense fog prevented them from getting to the dock.

“We went to get it the day after that, and it was gone,” Sollman said.

From there, the dock made its way around Sequim Bay, eventually washing ashore about a quarter-mile north of the Port Williams boat launch.

With most of its flotation gone, Sollman was surprised it floated around the bend.

“It had to have ridden pretty low in the water,” he said.

Jeff Schreck, a state Department of Natural Resources land manager in Chimacum, went out before refuge crews Wednesday morning to begin a retrieval process.

Schreck said he drove rebar posts into the beach and tied the dock to them to prevent it from getting away again.

He then contacted the Clallam County Parks, Fair & Facilities Department and was told that park personnel had received a call from Sollman for permission to drive onto the beach to retrieve the dock.

“So that's where we stopped,” Schreck said.

Workers and volunteers from the federal refuge removed the dock Wednesday afternoon.

The eight-man crew chopped it into sections with chain saws, then drove the sections down the beach on a small John Deere loader and dumped them in a truck from the Quilcene National Fish Hatchery, which was to take them to a landfill.

Fishing floats — many bearing Asian writing and logos — have been found on Dungeness Spit, but nothing as large as a dock.

Last month, workers from Port Townsend-based Undersea Co. removed a 185-ton Japanese dock that broke off during the tsunami and washed up on a beach near LaPush in December.

Plants and animals attached to that dock were confirmed to be native to Japan.

Dennis Clark, assistant aquatics division manager for the state Department of Natural Resources, said waste often washes onto the coast, some of it from across the Pacific Ocean.

Anyone spotting large debris like the dock on beaches in the area should report it through the department's special marine debris website at http://marinedebris.wa.gov.



Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 17. 2013 6:26PM
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