A nearly 70-foot-long dock that floated ashore on an Oregon beach was torn loose from a fishing port in northern Japan by last year’s tsunami and drifted across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean, a Japanese Consulate official said Wednesday.A commemorative plaque on the dock showed it was one of four owned by Aomori Prefecture that broke loose from the port of Misawa on the northern tip of the main island, Deputy Consul Hirofumi Murabayashi said from Portland, Ore.
“We were able to confirm from Aomori Prefecture that they don’t wish to have it returned,” he said. “About the other three, of course, we have no idea where they are floating, or if they are sunk somewhere.”
The dock was first spotted floating offshore Monday, and mistaken by several people for a barge, said Chris Havel, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation. It washed ashore early Tuesday on Agate Beach, a mile north of Newport on the central Oregon Coast. It’s made of concrete with a metal pontoon and measures 66 feet long, 19 feet wide and 7 feet high.
A starfish native to Japan was among the marine life still clinging to the structure after the long voyage, Havel said.
“This is tsunami debris, not just from Japan, but from the tsunami itself,” he said.Tom Cleveland, a housekeeping supervisor at some nearby beachfront condominiums, said the dock washed ashore in a storm, and people curious to see it have been jamming up traffic at a beach parking lot.
“Everybody and their brother has been here looking at it and checking it out,” he said.
Cleveland said he walks the beach occasionally and has seen small pieces of debris with Japanese writing. “Obviously, we knew things would be coming our way, but I didn’t expect anything this size,” he said of the dock.
A radiation check of the dock came up negative, which was to be expected if the dock broke loose before the nuclear power plant accident triggered by the waves, Havel said. The parks department was overseeing efforts to identify and remove the dock.
State police were posted to keep people from climbing on the dock, said Mitch Vance, shellfish program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Vance took samples of the mussels, barnacles and other shellfish clinging to the dock Wednesday morning. There also was green algae and brown kelp, he said.
There was no answer at the Tokyo-listed phone number for Zeniya Ocean Service Engineering Ltd., the company named on the placard, after business hours in Japan. The placard was dated June 2008.The bulk of the debris from the March 2011 tsunami is not expected until winter, but fast-moving examples have been arriving on North America’s shores. They include a soccer ball that washed up in Alaska and a shipping container holding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with Japanese licence plates that turned up in British Columbia earlier this year.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to redouble its efforts to track the debris, saying something as big as the dock could pose a danger to ships at sea.
Havel said the department would be responsible for removing the dock, which remained on the beach Wednesday morning. The plaque has been put in storage. It was not yet determined whether the dock would be towed off the beach and floated somewhere for disposal, or cut up on the beach for removal.
In the meantime, small crowds of people have been showing up on the beach to see the dock.
“I think that’s going to change to large crowds,” Havel said.
Associated Press writer Ryan Nakashima in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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