HONOLULU, Hi. -- A huge hunk of tsunami debris from Japan is drifting ever-closer to Hawaii's shoreline. The chunk of debris was identified as a large piece of dock, was last seen floating off the coast near Molokai.
Fishermen first saw it Monday night about 30 miles north of Hana, Maui. Since then it has been moving closer to the shore and was sighted about 15 miles north of Molokai on Thursday. It is expected to touch ground Friday evening.
Two fishermen from Maui took their boat out to the dock to see it up close. The men said they found some writing on the floating debris that looked to be Japanese, and estimated that the dock's surface is 50 feet long and 30 feet wide.
A similar Japanese dock washed up on Agate Beach near Newport in June. The dock headed toward Hawaiian shores has a surface area around 250-square-feet larger than the debris on Agate Beach. Oregon's huge dock proved to be difficult, from controlling invasive species to the removal process.
One positive for the local economy was that the dock drew a large number of tourists to the area. Oregon-native Sam Taylor now works on a fishing boat in Oahu, and said that the publicity was both positive and negative.
"There was a lot of hubbub all about it. It was a tourist attraction, thousands of people were showing up to see it and they were worried about invasive species," said Sam Taylor.
Invasive species, damage to reefs, nuclear contamination, danger to boats and the ensuing fiasco are all concerns with fisherman which is why they think the dock should be dealt with before it hits anything.
"I think if there is a giant barge out there floating like that it should be sunk as an artificial reef. Fish love structure. There's always fish around any ship or barge that gets sunk. Fisherman would probably like it and it's a hazard to all these shipping container ships and everything around. I would sink the thing," said Taylor.
However some Maui fishermen like George White are concerned that large-scale debris like this dock remain largely undetected and can seriously damage boats.
"If it gets close to our reefs it's just going to wipe them out," said George White, a Maui fisherman.
Having debris like this washing ashore has many fishermen concerned for other reasons as well.
"I'd hate to have to be traveling at night ... and no beacons or nothing on it. And some guys, not everybody has radar and to run into that could be devastating," said White
Hawaii News Now reporter Tim Sakahara contacted the Coast Guard, NOAA and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources. He reported that all of the departments initially said that the other agencies were to blame about not taking immediate action.
The Coast Guard said it would broadcast a "marine information broadcast on VHF Marine Band channel 16 to notify mariners of the debris" on Thursday afternoon, to alert people locally about the dock.
For Oregon, it cost the state $84,000 to cut up and remove the dock. Hawaii received $50,000 from the federal government to deal with tsunami debris. This one piece could cause much more damage than that.
The Hawaii State Department of Transportation set aside $10 million to deal with tsunami debris that come into or block the harbor and channels.
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