ONRC Hosts Community Program on Tsunami Debris

Dock Removal

This dock, set adrift from Misawa, Japan, by the tsunami in March 2011, beached on a remote shore of the Olympic Peninsula this past December.

On Tuesday evening, March 19, the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) invited members of the Forks, Wash., community to a program about the marine debris washing up on nearby coastal beaches.

Some of the debris is a result of the devastating tsunami in Japan two years ago in March 2011, and speakers at the event addressed various angles of the disaster and its ongoing effects. Nir Barnea, regional lead for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, provided an overview of the tsunami’s physical impacts and efforts to track and respond to tsunami debris as it is dispersed across the Pacific Ocean. Coastal biologist Steve Fradkin from Olympic National Park, along with resource protection specialist Liam Antrim from NOAA’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, then shared updates on the removal of a large dock that beached last December on a remote shore within the boundaries of both Olympic National Park and the sanctuary.

The dock—which measured 65’x20’x7.5’ and was kept afloat by 200 cubic yards of a Styrofoam-like material in its concrete holds—is currently being sawed up into manageable sections and removed by helicopter. It was one of three docks set adrift from Misawa, Japan, says Rainey McKenna, a public information officer with Olympic National Park.

Dock Removal

Crews work to saw the dock into smaller sections, which are then removed from the beach by helicopter.

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is overseeing the removal project, and they are collaborating closely with Olympic National Park. A subcontractor, Undersea Company of Port Townsend, is handling the actual dismantling and removal of the dock.

Among those who attended the hour-long program were about 35 members of the Port Angeles and Forks communities, including Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon. In addition to learning more about the tsunami debris and removal efforts, attendees also got a chance to connect with the local work and research at ONRC.

Located on the Olympic Peninsula in Forks, ONRC is a research center with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. The facility provides scientific information to address critical issues and solve problems concerning forestry and marine sciences in the region. It serves as a catalyst for interdisciplinary and collaborative work, bringing together expertise from forest resources and ocean and fishery sciences. By integrating research with education and outreach, it unites researchers, students, professionals and the public.

If you’d like to learn more about ONRC or the tsunamis debris event, please contact Ellen Matheny at 360.374.4556, or visit the ONRC site.

Photos of dock removal © John Gussman/National Park Service.

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