Local firm to begin dismantling dock from Japan

It washed up in Oregon after being ripped loose by 2011 tsunami

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

 

It’s not the biggest job that ­Ballard Diving and Salvage has taken on, but it’s an important one that few contractors are capable of doing.

That’s how Eric Muller, director of marketing and sales for the company sees the task of dismantling a dock from Japan that washed ashore at Agate Beach near Newport, Ore., in June.

The dock wafted out to sea from the Japanese port city of Misawa during the March 2011 tsunami.

It’s out of the water now, but the presence of tides raises contractual issues that leave some contractors on the sidelines, Muller said. By contrast, Ballard has in-water work know-how. “That’s where we come into play,” he said.

The company won an $84,000 contract to do the job of cutting the 66-foot-long, seven-foot-tall dock into five sections and then using a crane to load the sections onto trucks for transport to an off-site location for final demolition and recycling.

Ballard’s work, which could be completed in as few as two days, begins midafternoon Wednesday. The company, which employs more than 150 commercial divers, has expertise in industrial diving and responding to salvage projects. It was the lead contractor in the dismantling of the broken barge Davy Crockett, the former fixture on the Columbia River near Camas.

Muller estimated the value of the company’s contract on the Davy Crockett job at roughly $18 million. The revenue that came with that complex cleanup job played a major role in continuing the solid growth the company has experienced over the past several years, Muller said.

In just the past two weeks, he said, Ballard Diving and Salvage relocated its administrative staff from a 10,000-square-foot building in Vancouver to a 30,000-square-foot facility in Washougal.

The company’s new space includes a yard where it harbors landing craft and spill-response equipment. “It’s like a fire station,” Muller said. “We literally do multiple jobs every day throughout the Northwest.”

It has operations in other locations, including Seattle, San Francisco and Anchorage, Alaska.

Although the dock from Japan represents a unique project for Ballard, the company has previously done similar work. Muller said the company will use concrete-cutting wire saws to slice up the dock — the same wire saws it has used for work on one of the Columbia River’s hydroelectric dams.

Muller estimated the company will have a crew of about 10 people working on the dock project. Active work will probably stop during high tides and pick up again as low tide approaches, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department said in a news release.

Muller said he’s glad to hear that Newport, Ore., Mayor Mark McConnell has said that a chunk of the dock will be saved for a future memorial.

Muller said plans call for the sliced-up concrete to be turned “into a road.”

“It will be recycled,” he added.