After snag, first piece free from Japanese dock

After snag, first piece free from Japanese dock »Play Video
A crane lifts the first section cut off the Japanese dock that washed up on the beach. It will be placed on a waiting flatbed semi and hauled away.

AGATE BEACH, Ore. - The first section cut off from the Japanese dock that floated up on an Oregon beach after last year’s tsunami was lifted free of the larger piece by a crane Thursday afternoon.

Crews placed the section back on the sand a short distance away. The plan was to load it onto a nearby flatbed semitrailer and haul it to Sherwood for recycling. But crews realized the 95,000 pound section was too heavy for the truck so the newly severed piece will stay on the beach overnight. Another truck will be brought in to haul it away while the cutting up of the rest of the dock continues.

A salvage team ran into problems cutting up the boxcar-sized. Workers 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 representing 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.

After high tide passed at Agate Beach on Thursday, contractors continued to create a second cut on the dock. The first cut was unsuccessful and the new slice was made about six inches from the first in an attempt to free the first section so it can be removed from the beach.

At the same time the second cut was being made, contractors continued to remove small particles of rigid foam from the beach, and used a concrete saw to cut the top of the dock in three other places, in preparation for possible wire saw work later today.

Workers had expected to have the dock off the beach by Thursday, but the difficulties were likely to delay that. Officials now say it will probably be Saturday before the work is completed. 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. A motorcycle in a shipping crate appeared on a remote island off British Columbia and went to a museum. A soccer ball reached Alaska. And officials are keeping an eye on what appears to be a barge floating off the coast of Washington.

The dock pieces will be trucked to the Portland, Ore., 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.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.