Tsunami Origin Confirmed for Dock Washed Ashore in Olympic National Park
According to NOAA and the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology, the Japanese government has confirmed that a large dock that washed ashore in the Olympic National Park was lost in the Japanese tsunami of March 2011. The dock was found Dec. 18 in a remote and rugged section of the coastline within the boundaries of both the Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and adjacent to the Washington Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. According to officials, this 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.
According to the Department of Ecology, a swollen stream and rough seas made reaching the dock initially quite difficult. After two attempts, a small group of responders was able to reach the dock on Dec. 21. Although the dock has stayed in the same general location since its arrival on the beach, it is still quite mobile in the surf. As a result, the section of the park between Goodman Creek and Jefferson Cove, including where the dock washed ashore, remains closed to the public. The dock weighs about 185 tons and is 65 feet long, 20 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall.
The dock was positively identified by the Japanese officials as coming from Aomori Prefecture based on a serial number on a fender discernible in one of the photographs sent by Washington state and federal responders.
U.S. officials are concerned both about pollution potential from the damaged dock and the release of non-native species into the rugged but delicate coastal environment. Most of the dock’s volume is evidently a Styrofoam-type material which is encased in steel reinforced concrete. The concrete has already been damaged, exposing rebar and releasing foam into the ocean and onto the beach. Officials worry that the foam can potentially be ingested by fish, birds and marine mammals.
Because leaving the dock in place could result in the release of over 200 cubic yards of foam into federally protected waters and wilderness coast, federal agencies are moving forward with plans to remove the dock as soon as possible. NOAA has released a Request for Proposal (RFP) for marine salvage contractors.
According to Washington officials, this is the fourth confirmed item from the tsunami found on the shores of Washington state. Another dock ran aground and was removed from the Oregon coastline this past August.