By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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A Port Townsend contractor has finished removing a 185-ton Japanese dock that broke off in a massive tsunami in March 2011, floated across the Pacific Ocean and washed ashore on a remote beach dividing Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary last December.
State and federal officials officially announced Thursday that the Undersea Co. had removed what was left of the 65-foot-long, 7½-foot-tall structure after winds and ocean currents drove it to a wilderness beach near the mouth of Mosquito Creek between the Hoh River and LaPush.
“Thanks to the extraordinary teamwork of all involved, the dock has been removed,” said Carol Bernthal, sanctuary superintendent.
“No one was injured, and the potential for environmental impacts has been reduced significantly,” she said.
“But this cannot erase the tragedy experienced by the people of Japan.”
Crews began dismantling the dock — a concrete hull filled with plastic foam — with wire saws March 17.
Chunks of the structure were lifted out by helicopter.
The pieces then were taken to a landing site on private Rayonier land nearby, Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said, and from there were trucked to a Forks recycling station.
John Nesset, president and chief executive officer of the Undersea Co., said the last of the equipment was removed from the dock site Wednesday.
“This operation was challenging,” Nesset said.
“Imagine opening up a 185-ton concrete package filled with foam-packing peanuts while standing near a helicopter on an extremely remote coastline,” Nesset said in a prepared statement.
“We wouldn't have been successful in removing the dock without the hard work and dedication of everyone involved.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the sanctuary, hired the east Jefferson County diving and salvage service to remove the dock.
The state Department of Ecology said that between 30 to 50 species of marine plants and animals not found in the United States but native to Japan had attached themselves to the structure.
In January, workers removed more than 400 pounds of plant and animal life and washed the dock with a diluted bleach solution to prevent the spread of invasive species.
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the National Park Service each contributed $75,000 toward the $628,000 cost of dock removal.
The other $478,000 came from the Japanese government — part of a $5 million provision to the U.S. for the removal of tsunami debris.
“Our state deeply appreciates Japan's friendship and the generous gift of $5 million in goodwill to the United States to support response efforts related to tsunami debris, such as the dock that washed ashore and was recently removed from the Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.
“We continue to offer our condolences for the March 11, 2011, tragedy that claimed so many lives in Japan and admire the strength and resilience of the Japanese people as well as the nation's ongoing efforts to recover and rebuild.”
Inslee added: “Japan is under absolutely no obligation to provide this type of assistance, and the nation's generous gift is yet another demonstration of Japan's continued contributions to the international community.”
During dock removal, Olympic National Park closed the stretch of coastline between Jefferson Cove and Goodman Creek.
That area has reopened.
“The coastline of Olympic National Park is one of the most popular wilderness destinations in North America,” Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said.
“Thanks to the excellent work by the Undersea Co., the support of our state and federal partners, and the generous gift from the government of Japan, we are able to reopen this wild stretch of coast to the public.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.
Reporter Arwyn Rice and Managing Editor/News Leah Leach contributed to this report.