Agencies planning what to do with tsunami dock debris

FORKS — Scientists plan treks Thursday and Friday to a dock that washed ashore on a wilderness beach near Forks, a spokeswoman for Washington state’s marine debris task force said Wednesday. The dock is considered likely debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan.

The first task for representatives of the state Fish and Wildlife agency and the National Park Service will be to assess and remove any possibly invasive species that have attached themselves to the dock, said Virginia Painter of the state Parks Department.

The Washington state Ecology Department has said nearly 30 species found on the dock have been identified, and none poses a high risk of becoming invasive.

Also, the battery on a GPS beacon attached to the dock is weakening and officials hope a replacement unit arrives from Hawaii in time to be installed on Friday.

Painter said it appears the dock has moved about 50 to 100 yards from the spot where it washed ashore on Dec. 18.

The Coast Guard spotted it on a remote stretch of beach on the northwestern tip of Washington protected by the Olympic National Park.

The consensus at a Wednesday meeting of agencies dealing with the dock was that the state needs to take care of any invasive species first, then the National Park Service will work out funding for removing the dock from the beach, Painter said.

There are some Japanese marking on the dock, but they are not conclusive, so more photos have been sent to Japanese officials.

A scientist who examined the dock says it looks just like the one that came ashore on a central Oregon beach last summer, suggesting it, too, is tsunami debris.

John Chapman, an assistant professor of fisheries at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, said recently that the Washington dock has the same dimensions and configuration as the one found near Newport, Ore. The Oregon dock broke loose from a Japanese fishing port in 2011.

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