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Mile 218 Report
June 13, 2012
It’s the last thing you’d expect, having your adopted mile, in this case 218, suddenly become the main attraction on the Oregon coast.
It’s the last thing you’d expect, having your adopted mile, in this case 218, suddenly become the main attraction on the Oregon coast. Equally shocking for someone who routinely collects fishing floats and other treasures from the beach is to be faced with something way too large to cart home. It has been just over a week since the 130-ton Japanese repair dock (Photo 1) arrived on Agate Beach after its 5,000-mile, 15-month journey from the fishing port of Misawa north of Tokyo where it was dislodged during the March 11, 2011 tsunami. I purposely waited to file my report until after thousands of visitors had trekked down the beach to view the 19x66x7-foot dock, figuring I’d have a better idea of any impacts from the increased traffic. I’m pleased to report that the heavy influx of tourists (Photo 2) has not resulted in any visible beach damage and I see virtually no increase in litter. They’re behaving themselves. I’m also happy to see these people actually walking the beach. As most mile adopters know, visitors rarely venture more than a hundred yards or so from a wayside or other beach access point. At least here, on Agate Beach, they are strolling (in some cases trotting or running) up to the tsunami mecca which is located about halfway between the Agate Beach and Lucky Gap accesses.The only remarkable indication that the Agate Beach Wayside is receiving an unusual amount of traffic is the string of temporary ‘No Parking’ signs along Oceanview Drive and in the wayside parking lot (Photo 3).The dock was reported in the Mile 218 surf on Monday afternoon, June 4th. Upon my arrival early the next morning, it had beached itself at the high tide line. The bottom 5 feet or so was completely covered by marine life -- hundreds of millions of individual organisms, including a tiny species of crab, mussels, barnacles, various algae, and a little starfish, all native to Japan. Most obvious was the heavy fringe of a Japanese brown algae (kelp) known as wakame. My first thought was invasive species, in spades. Oregon State Parks, Oregon State Police and scientists from OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport began arriving shortly after I did and their attention was immediately focused on two aspects: one, the safety of the gawkers, and two, the foreign marine growth. The authorities took action quickly and soon the dock was cordoned off, security was in place and scientists were taking samples of the marine growth.Within a couple of days, the dock itself had been sanitized. Biologists supervised the removal and burial of the invasive species. They scraped it off and then using a long-handled flame thrower burned off any remaining marine life. The charred remnants were buried in a pit on the beach well above the high tide line (Photo 4).As the state’s beaches are under the jurisdiction of Oregon State Parks, that agency has currently put the dock’s removal out to bid. They would prefer salvage (towing it off the beach for use elsewhere), but if that alternative is cost prohibitive, they would accept a bid for demolition and removal. The bids will be opened this afternoon.Are there more on the way? Four of these docks were sucked out of the harbor in Misawa. One came ashore on a Japanese island, one is on Agate Beach and the other two are still missing at sea.
Temperature: 55 F. Cloud Cover: Cloudy. Wind Velocity: Moderate. Wind Direction: NW. Tide Level: 3.0 feet.
Number of people: 100. Number of dogs: 2. Walking or running: 100. Other Activities: Viewing tsunami dock.
Cars/trucks parking: 35. RVs/Buses parking: 4.
Seaweeds and seagrass, Animal casings (e.g., crab, shrimp molt), Ocean-based debris (from fishing boats, ship trash, etc.), Marine debris (plastic, styrofoam, etc. washing in from the sea), Shells, Small rocks, Styrofoam, Wood pieces. Large Japanese dock
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*** Watch Note *** This is my first documentation of Mile 218 (Agate Beach) and I will use today's report as a baseline for reporting future changes.
Very few people on the beach; most of them arrived just prior to sunset (which was beautiful).