AGATE BEACH, Ore. - Contractors began cutting up a massive dock from an Oregon beach Wednesday, almost two months after it washed ashore after floating across the Pacific from Japan.
Contractors spent Tuesday preparing popular Agate Beach for the removal effort, according to Oregon Parks and Recreation officials. It could take until the end of the day Thursday or possibly Friday before workers have the beach completely cleared of the dock. Weather is expected to be good for the operation, officials said.
Things went a little slower than planned Wednesday. Workers ran into rebar that they did not expect. The cable that is sawing through the dock snapped or came loose about three quarters of the way through the first cut. Crews turned to a crane to help get it back in place and began using a surface concrete saw to get the first piece cut off. But crews were unable to move the first section off the beach before the sun went down.
They plan to be back out on the beach first thing Thursday morning to begin the second cut and remove the first section.
The 66-foot long dock, which is almost 20 feet wide and 7 feet high and mostly made of concrete, broke loose from moorings in Japan during the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the island nation in March of 2011. It weighs several tons.
Shortly after it floated ashore, tons of marine life had to be stripped from the dock over invasive species fears.
Removal of the dock will be a complicated task.
Parks officials said Ballard Diving and Salvage and other subcontractors assembled a 100-ton lift capacity crane, established a safety zone around the work site, and excavated sand from around the base of the dock.
The plan is to cut the 165-ton concrete dock into five slices, like a loaf of bread, and load them onto flatbed trucks, which drive over the soft sand on a roadway of planks and steel plates.
Workers inserted thin plastic pipe beneath the dock and a diamond-coated cable was threaded through the pipe, then attached to a motor which will be installed on top of the dock.
The machine, called a "wire saw," will be used to cut the dock into sections. The crane will then place the dock sections on nearby flatbed semi-trucks for transport to the Portland area for final disassembly and recycling.
Workers are also being careful about the cleanup. They are scraping the sand with shovels to remove little Styrofoam bits that were released as the saw goes through.
One piece, bearing a mural of waves painted along one side in the last week, will stay in Newport as a memorial to last year's tsunami.
Parks officials said that because the main beach access is being used by the contractor, a temporary footbridge has been erected between the main parking area and the beach.
Onlookers streamed on and off the beach all day. The dock has become a tourist attraction and the foot traffic picked up Wednesday as people realized it would be their last time to see the dock.
Visitors are reminded to respect the safety zone around the dock, and keep a tight rein on pets and children when visiting the work site, which has been a strong tourist draw while the dock has been on the beach.
The dock is one of first big pieces of debris that has floated across the Pacific following the tsunami, which killed thousands in Japan.
The Coast Guard sank an unoccupied fishing trawler from Japan earlier in the year, and other items, including a motorcycle, a small boat and numerous small pieces of debris have also washed ashore.
Much more tsunami debris is expected to arrive on North American shores over the next several years.
If people spot debris in Oregon and Washington, they can call 211 in Oregon and 1-855-W-A COAST or 1-855-922-6278.
The Associated Press and KATU News reporter Lincoln Graves contributed to this story