Cutting woes delay removal of tsunami dock in Oregon

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Herrera Beutler bill eyes debris removal grant process

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., have introduced legislation that would speed the process by which coastal communities apply for grants to help remove debris from the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. They’ve been joined by 16 other co-sponsors representing Washington, Oregon and California.

The legislation would change how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issues debris-removal grants, requiring the agency to give priority to communities experiencing a marine debris emergency. The legislation would also require NOAA to approve or deny all grant requests within 60 days of applications.

A salvage team ran into problems cutting up the boxcar-sized Japanese dock that floated up on an Oregon beach after last year’s tsunami.

Workers with Ballard Diving and Salvage of Washougal finished the first cut with a piece of equipment known as a wire saw on Wednesday afternoon, but a crane couldn’t lift it onto a truck. So a whole new cut was started Thursday, said Chris Havel, spokesman for the Oregon Parks Department.

“The saw is just worrying along like mad here,” he said.

Havel said it was first thought that the piece was held down by suction between the dock and the wet sand. A backhoe was able to wiggle the piece weighing about 33 tons — one-fifth of the 165-ton piece of concrete, steel and Styrofoam. But now it appears the saw failed to cut through a piece of rebar.

How that could happen was not immediately clear. But apparently, after the cutting wire broke on Wednesday, and a new one was threaded through the cut, it missed a spot, Havel said.

Workers had expected to have the dock off the beach by Thursday, but the difficulties were likely to delay that. There was no new estimate on when the work would be done. The dock was to be cut into five pieces, with each piece loaded onto a flatbed truck.

Biologists were still waiting to see if any invasive species survived on the bottom of the dock and a crowd of about 20 spectators watched the work.

The dock washed ashore on Agate Beach north of Newport, Ore., on June 5. It is the biggest single piece of tsunami debris so far to float some 5,000 miles across the Pacific and wash up on North America’s shores. An abandoned fishing boat that appeared off Alaska was sunk.

The dock pieces will be trucked to the Portland suburb of Sherwood, where they will be broken down for recycling and disposal. A corner piece bearing a section of a mural of blue waves that appeared mysteriously in the past week will be saved and returned to Newport as part of a memorial to tsunami victims.

Read the earlier story and watch video of the demolition.