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Contact: Barb Maynes, 360-565-3005
Contact: Rainey McKenna, 360-565-2985
FORKS, Wash. - A ground crew representing federal, state and tribal agencies set out today for a large dock that washed ashore from the ocean in a rugged section of the Olympic National Park / Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary shoreline.
Safety concerns resulting from very high winds and dangerous ocean conditions prevented the agencies from dispatching the team on Wednesday.
The dock is aground on a remote stretch of beach between LaPush and the mouth of the Hoh River, which must be accessed by foot via primitive trails across rough terrain. Stream crossings are dangerous due to very high flows. There is no vehicle access. The coast has been pounded by high winds, storm surge, and extreme high tides. Safety of the ground crew is a priority.
"We're extremely grateful for the support and expertise of our federal and Washington State partners," said Sarah Creachbaum, Olympic National Park Superintendent. "As we move forward as a team, our first concerns will be safety in this rugged stretch of coastline and assessment and containment of any invasive species."
Once the crew reaches the dock, their highest priority will be to evaluate the massive dock for any potential invasive aquatic species that may have "hitchhiked" while it was drifting in the ocean. In addition, the team will begin developing a removal plan and collecting evidence to definitively confirm the dock's origins.
Because of precarious conditions, the crew size will be limited to the minimum necessary to conduct the initial assessment.
Airspace limitations and temporary beach closure:
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary regulations prohibit disturbing wildlife by flying below 2,000 feet within one nautical mile of the coast or offshore islands. This includes the area where the dock has washed ashore.
Pending further information about the precise location and risks associated with the dock, the wilderness beach between Hoh Head and Toleak Point is closed to all public entry.
Short video reveals condition of the dock
Video footage from a U.S. Coast Guard overflight Tuesday shows the location and a glimpse of the condition of the dock, which lies within Olympic National Park and adjacent to Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
A short Coast Guard video from the Dec. 18 overflight may be downloaded. Until safety issues are assessed, the location coordinates have been redacted from the footage. The redacted video can be downloaded at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecologywa/8291906866/in/set-72157630409598334
Other footage and photos will be made available to the media as soon as they can be uploaded to http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecologywa/sets/72157630409598334/
Olympic National Park protects more than 70 miles of wild Pacific coast. Much of this coastline, including the dock's location, was designated by Congress as Wilderness in 1988. Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary protects the 3,188 square miles of the marine environment seaward of the national park.
The coastal section of Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary protect one of the richest and biologically diverse intertidal zones on the west coast of North America. Invasive species present a significant risk to the rich native coastal community.
Marine debris is an ongoing problem with everyday impacts, especially around the Pacific, and natural disasters can make the problem worse. Anyone sighting other significant debris that may be from the tsunami is asked to report it to e-mail us.
As of Dec. 13, NOAA has received approximately 1,432 official debris reports, of which 17 have been confirmed as definite tsunami debris. For the latest information on tsunami debris please visit http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris and http://marinedebris.wa.gov.