Suspected tsunami-damaged dock drifts to Washington coast

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SEATTLE (AP) — A dock that apparently was ripped away from Japanese waters by a tsunami and drifted for more than a year and a half has washed ashore on one of the most remote beaches on the U.S. West Coast.

The Coast Guard spotted it Tuesday on Washington’s rugged Olympic Peninsula but tsunami debris experts didn’t try to reach it by ground until Thursday because of stormy weather and treacherous terrain.

They were turned back when they reached a dangerously swollen stream, said David Workman, spokesman for the state Marine Debris Task Force.

They planned to try again today, if weather permits, so they can verify the dock’s origin, measure it and inspect it for invasive species.

Workman said tides in the area make today the “last best shot” to reach the dock before early January.

Officials say the dock appears to be similar to a Japanese dock that washed ashore last June in Newport, Ore. That debris was cut up and removed.

Removing the dock or just scraping it clean of potential invasive species of marine life “is going to be a real challenge to find the right solution,” Workman said.

The debris is along 70 miles of wilderness beaches protected by the Olympic National Park. The waters are in the 3,200-square-mile Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

While the dock is likely of Japanese origin, Workman said officials will follow the protocol established by the United States and Japan to reach a definitive conclusion.

As of Dec. 13, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had received 1,432 debris reports, of which 17 have been confirmed as tsunami origin.

The deadly, earthquake-generated tsunami struck Japan’s Pacific coast in March 2011.

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