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Tsunami Debris Dock Decontaminated; Removal Poses Next Challenge

Wash. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

State and federal biologists say they are confident they have minimized the invasive species threat posed by a derelict dock that washed ashore last month in Olympic National Park. The concrete and steel dock appears to have drifted across the Pacific Ocean after last year's tsunami in Japan. But the story is not over yet.

A tsunami debris response team hiked in with scrapers, ratchets and a shovel to a remote Olympic coast beach. National Park Service ecologist Steven Fradkin says the team spent two days cleaning off all the visible sea life clinging to the huge dock, including Japanese seaweeds and barnacles.

"From a marine invasive species perspective, I think that we have largely nullified the invasive threat from the dock."

Fradkin says the park service is determined to remove the derelict dock from its resting place on a scenic, wilderness beach. It won't be possible to slice it up and haul away the pieces by truck as was done with another tsunami debris dock near Newport, Oregon last summer.

Fradkin says the options here include towing the hulk to sea with a tugboat or lifting out chopped-up pieces by helicopter.

"This is new territory for everybody," remarked Allen Pleus, aquatic invasive species coordinator for Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A coastal section of Olympic National Park around the beached dock remains closed to the public while the government agencies ponder the next step.

The size and design of the dock which beached on the Olympic coast is virtually identical to the dock remnant that drifted ashore near Newport. Last June, the Japanese consulate confirmed that Newport debris was set adrift by the March 2011 tsunami from the fishing port of Misawa.

On the Web:

Forks Dock in Olympic National Park (Washington State Marine Debris Task Force)

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.