Officials confirm dock that washed up in Oregon is from Japan

Officials confirm dock that washed up in Oregon is from Japan »Play Video
Photo courtesy John Stork

NEWPORT, Ore. - Agate Beach remains open, state parks officials say - just stay off the dock that floated over from Japan.

Wednesday afternoon, Chris Havel with Oregon Parks and Recreation sent out a short statement by email that said "The Japanese consulate has confirmed that the dock washed ashore at Agate Beach is debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan."

Earlier, Oregon Parks and Recreation sent out a photo of the placard Wednesday morning and said they forwarded the image to the Japanese consulate in Portland, Oregon, for their review. "The origin of the dock has not yet been confirmed," officials said at the time.

But a steady stream of clues continued to point towards the dock making the long voyage from Japan over the last 15 months.

KATU traced a phone number on the placard to a business located in Tokyo, called Zeniya Marine Services Company, Ltd., which builds docks and other floating marine structures.

Greg Smith, who said he works in Japan, emailed a translation of the placard to KATU.com that indicated the dock was indeed built in Japan in 2008. Several other KATU viewers also emailed translations that matched Smith's.

Oregon Parks and Recreation officials sent out a second press release Wednesday that said the dock was tested for radiation and "found to be negative" but scientists at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport verified animals attached to the structure are definitely from Japanese waters.

Officials said steps are being taken to contain any problems with possible invasive species and they are studying disposal options including salvage or demolition.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden also weighed in on the discovery, saying the dock is likely just the first big piece of debris headed for the Oregon Coast. "With the strong possibility that more debris could pose a significant threat to shipping lanes and fishing grounds, I encourage the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to redouble its efforts in tracking debris generated by the Japanese earthquake," the statement read in part. Full text of statement is at the end of this story.

Beachcombers first spotted the dock floating offshore on Monday. The structure washed ashore and is sitting at the high tide line, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department staff said.

The dock was marked with warning signs and tape advising the public to stay clear of the structure, which could shift and move at high tide as waves come ashore.

The dock is 7 feet tall, 19 feet wide and 66 feet long. Parks staff said that, while made of concrete and metal, the structure was clearly designed to float.

Previously, officials said there was no indication the structure crossed the ocean or that it came loose after the Japanese tsunami last year.

But beach-goers who talked to KATU News said they couldn’t help but think it is debris from the tsunami-stricken shores of Japan.

Kirk Tite and his boys were drawn to the beach Tuesday by the massive hunk of concrete and metal covered in sea creatures.

The family said they found clues like a tiny Japanese symbol and an imprint on the tires that might indicate its origin.

"It says Shibata, Japan, which could mean it was made in Shibata, Japan, but it could also be from Shibata, Japan," said Kirk Tite.

"I just think it’s kinda weird that it could come all the way from Japan. It could be from the tsunami that happened quite a bit ago," said Kirk's son, Trevor.

The Oregon Parks Department has sent early photos of the dock to NOAA and the Japanese consulate.

"We don't know where it's from," said Chris Havel with the parks department. "We don't know if it's from Japan or not but we have to eliminate those possibilities as we go forward."

The dock will either be helped back out to sea and towed away or dismantled on the beach. Officials with the parks department will decide in the next few days.


Full statement from Sen. Ron Wyden on expected tsunami debris:

“The huge dock that washed ashore in Agate Beach is clear evidence that debris from last year’s tsunami in Japan is reaching the Oregon Coast much sooner than anyone predicted.

This massive dock, which crossed the Pacific Ocean undetected in 15 months, may be the vanguard of more debris to come.

With the strong possibility that more debris could pose a significant threat to shipping lanes and fishing grounds, I encourage the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to redouble its efforts in tracking debris generated by the Japanese earthquake and to work closely with other federal, state and local agencies to inform the public how best to report suspected debris."