By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Bill Tweit, invasive-species specialist and special assistant to the director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said crews with his department and with the National Park Service started hiking to the 64-foot concrete and steel dock, which is thought to be a piece of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, first thing Thursday morning to begin removing from the structure species alien to Washington's shores.
Preliminary reports said scientists had found no highly invasive species — meaning non-native species that are ecologically dangerous biological invaders — in samples taken from the dock on the beach south of LaPush.
Some species found on the dock are native to the coastal waters of Japan, Tweit said, after scientists examined samples of 30 species of marine life taken from the dock after a December hike to it.
Tweit said Thursday none of the five potentially ecological dangerous species found on a similar dock that washed ashore in Oregon in 2012 has been found on the dock.
Crews planned to use scrapers, scrub brushes and hand-held propane torches to remove the dock's accumulated sea life, Tweit said, adding that removing these species is the main priority for all agencies involved.
“The point is to get these species off before [the dock] becomes a platform for sponsoring [the growth of non-native species],” Tweit said.
In addition to species removal, Tweit said the team plans to remove a satellite tracking buoy used to track the dock's movements — which was placed on the dock last month — and replace it with another unit with fresh batteries.
Dock has moved
Satellite tracking data have shown wave action has moved the dock roughly 50 to 100 yards from its original spot just north of the Hoh River, Tweit said, and shifted it so it is now parallel with the shoreline.
This repositioning will help crews reach sections of the dock previously submerged when the structure rested perpendicular to the shore.
“Just that change in orientation, that makes things easier for us,” Tweit said.
The dock washed ashore Dec. 18 and was confirmed as beached in its current location by a Coast Guard helicopter after it was first spotted miles off the west coast of Washington.
A coalition of state and federal agencies — including the state Department of Ecology, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Park Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — currently are deciding how best to dispose of the dock once it has been cleared of marine life.
Park trails between Goodman Creek and Jefferson Cove, a stretch of coastline with 200-foot-high bluffs where the dock is beached, are now closed to public hiking.
State and federal officials suspect the dock to be a remnant of the estimated 5 million tons of debris swept into the ocean by a tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, though confirmation has not yet been received from the Japanese government.
Anyone sighting other significant debris that may be from the tsunami is asked to report it to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.
There are two government websites with information on tsunami debris: www.marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris and http://marinedebris.wa.gov.