Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013
A 185-ton dock that washed out to sea during the March 2011 tsunami in Japan has been removed from a wilderness beach within the boundaries of Olympic National Park and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The dock was first sighted by the U.S. Coast Guard on December 18th. Grounded on a remote stretch of beach, it could only be accessed via a primitive three-mile trail.
Removal of the dock was critically important to resource protection goals of both federal agencies. If left in place, it could have done significant harm to the coastal environment. Most of the volume of the 65-foot long dock was a Styrofoam-type material, which was encased in steel reinforced concrete.
“Although the dock stayed in the same general location since its arrival on the beach, there was potential for changing tides and waves to move the dock and batter the coastline,” said Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Carol Bernthal. “The intertidal area of the Olympic Coast is home to the most diverse ecosystem of marine invertebrates and seaweeds on the west coast of North America. By removing the dock, we hope to minimize damage to the coastline and marine habitat.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contracted with the Undersea Company of Port Townsend, Washington, earlier this month to remove the dock. The Undersea Company worked with the both federal agencies, as well as local partners in Washington, to dismantle the dock on site.
The dock was sectioned into small pieces, airlifted to an upland landing zone and then trucked offsite for disposal. This was determined to be the safest and most efficient method for removal in light of concern that the dock was no longer seaworthy.
"This operation was challenging. Imagine opening up a 185-ton concrete package filled with foam packing peanuts while standing near a helicopter on an extremely remote coastline," said John Nesset, president and CEO of The Undersea Company. "We wouldn't have been successful in removing the dock without the hard work and dedication of everyone involved."
The removal effort was supported by many state and federal agencies, including Washington's Marine Debris Task Force, the U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Removing a piece of marine debris of this magnitude is possible only through the coordinated efforts of many agencies," said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. "Without the support of our state and federal partners, the quick and effective response and removal of the dock from our wilderness coast would not have been possible."
The cost for the $628,000 removal effort was paid by NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the National Park Service and with funds provided to NOAA from the government of Japan to help with cleanup of marine debris from the tsunami.