Tsunami dock removal from Peninsula beach may be delayed

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — The window of daytime low tides is closing on any chance this week to remove a dock from Japan that washed up on a remote beach in December, and work may be delayed until March 15, said a park spokeswoman Tuesday.

“Weather and tides will play a significant role in how quickly they are able to cut the dock up and move it,” said Rainey McKenna, spokeswoman for Olympic National Park.

Work has to be done during low tide, and the lowest tides are occurring too late in the evening to give workers enough light,
McKenna said.

Keeley Belva, NOAA spokeswoman, had said last week that federal officials hoped removal of the 185-ton dock could begin as early as this week if the weather cooperated.

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

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which runs the sanctuary, hired the Undersea Co. of Port Townsend 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.

“We are very grateful for the gift from Japan. This effort could not be possible without their contribution,” McKenna said.

The Undersea Co. is working with the sanctuary, national park and state agencies to complete a removal plan, and the removal is still expected to be complete by the end of this month, McKenna said.

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

Pieces of the dock will be carried away by helicopter. McKenna did not know where the pieces would be taken.

Just the right combination of low tides, good weather and sunlight is necessary for the operation.

“Any rough weather during that time is unsafe for flying and for people on the ground,” McKenna said.

The dock cannot be towed off the beach at high tide because it has been “bashed on rocks” since it washed ashore near the mouth of Mosquito Creek, north of Hoh Head.

“Pieces of the dock broke off,” she said.

McKenna added that the dock cannot be sunk to be used as an artificial reef since it is made of a Styrofoam-like material encased in steel-reinforced concrete.

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

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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 05. 2013 6:02PM
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