What's up? Dock: Tsunami debris removal back on track

NEWPORT, Ore. - After some initial glitches, work went smoothly Friday on cutting up the box-car sized concrete dock that floated up on an Oregon beach after breaking loose from a Japanese fishing port during last year's tsunami.

Scott Korab of Ballard Diving and Salvage said crews hoped to finish cutting the dock into five pieces and hauling them away for recycling by Saturday or Sunday.

"She's a tough dock, and she's not going away easy," Korab said. "But we are progressing nicely. We'll get her on her way to the recycling yard."

Korab said the concrete will be broken down into gravel for paving parking lots at a yard in the Portland, Ore., suburb of Sherwood.

One corner will be saved for a memorial.

The 165-ton dock washed up on Agate Beach north of Newport, Ore., eight weeks ago.

Just who painted the blue waves that showed up on the dock in the past week remained a mystery.

A piece of the mural will be preserved on the corner being saved.

"We don't have a clue," who painted the waves, said Collette Herrick, a volunteer at the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts. "They looked good. I'm sorry to see it go, to be honest."

Oregon Parks Department spokesman John Allen speculated it was local kids.

"We have a lot of problems with taggers here at Agate Beach," he said. "They tag the tunnel, the restroom. I imagine it was one of them."

The piece of equipment known as a wire saw ran into difficulties on its first cut Wednesday. The cutting cable broke, and after it was threaded back into the cut, missed some rebar, so a second cut had to be started.

When the first piece was cut off Thursday, it proved heavier at 47 tons than the expectations of 33 tons, so a bigger truck had to be called in. It was to arrive Saturday, Korab said.

The piece was heavier than expected because it contained an extra interior concrete wall to enclose a manhole for inspecting the inside of the dock, much of which is filled with plastic foam, said Korab.

Korab said it was "a very solid structure."

Biologists from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have been inspecting the bottom of the dock pieces as they are hoisted up by a crane, and so far have found none of the invasive species alive that hitchhiked across the ocean.

Korab said he had watched video of the tsunami buffeting the dock when it was still in place in the port of Misawa at the northern tip of Japan.

"It really gives you pause," he said. "It makes you realize what brought this dock here. It was a massive tragedy in Japan. A little piece of it is on the beach in Newport. In a few days, it will be gone, too."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press