Tsunami debris? Dock makes landfall near La Push

Grays Harbor Daily World - Staff

The floating dock tracked by the Coast Guard and believed to be another major piece of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan has hit the Washington coast near LaPush.

A Coast Guard crew spotted the dock Tuesday night in what is described as an extremely rugged and remote section of coastline in the Olympic National Park. It was found between LaPush and the mouth of the Hoh River.

Federal, state and tribal agencies were coordinating to reach the site today and evaluate the dock for any potential invasive aquatic species that may have “hitchhiked” while it was drifting in the ocean, said a new release. The agencies also want to evaluate the dock’s origins and develop a response.

The efforts to track and locate the dock were applauded by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

“The Coast Guard was out in challenging conditions looking for a needle in a haystack, and they found it,” Gregoire said. “I also commend our state marine debris response group and our tribal and local partners for working in concert to respond as we deal with these unprecedented situations.”

The Coast Guard mounted a series of flights to locate the dock after it was spotted adrift in the ocean last Friday by fishermen aboard the fishing vessel Lady Nancy. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration worked to determine the dock’s trajectory based on the reported location at the time of the sighting.

Pending further information about the precise location and the risks associated with the dock, the National Park Service has closed the wilderness beach between Hoh Head and Toleak Point to all public entry.

Sen. Maria Cantwell has been pushing for more federal assistance in planning for the debris. According to initial estimates, the dock is 60 feet long, 19 feet wide, 7 feet tall, and weighs at least 188 tons.

“This massive Japanese dock washing up on Washington’s shores is yet another reminder that the federal government needs an aggressive plan in place to protect Washington coastal communities and jobs from approaching tsunami debris,” Cantwell said. “The debris from the tragic tsunami in Japan is a national problem that demands a national solution. The time is now to mobilize appropriate federal resources for planning and response.”

The dock was confirmed as tsunami debris earlier this week by a researcher working under a RAPID National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. The researcher used a photograph of the dock taken by a fisherman to identify the dock and its origin. At the request of Senators Cantwell and Mark Begich of Alaska, President Obama mobilized the RAPID emergency research grants earlier this year to help track and respond to tsunami debris.

Anyone sighting other significant debris can report it to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.

As of Dec. 13, NOAA has received approximately 1,432 official debris reports, of which 17 have been confirmed as definite tsunami debris. For the latest information on tsunami debris, visit http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris and http://marinedebris.wa.gov.