A large dock that floated ashore on an Oregon beach was torn loose from a port in Japan by last year's tsunami and drifted across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean, a state official said Wednesday.
The origin of the nearly 70-foot-long dock was confirmed by the Japanese consulate in Portland, Ore., by means of a commemorative plaque naming the manufacturer, along with the discovery of a starfish native to Japan among the marine life still clinging to the structure, said Chris Haven, Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation spokesman.
"This is tsunami debris, not just from Japan, but from the tsunami itself," Havel said.
A call to the Japanese consulate was not immediately returned.
A radiation check of the dock came up negative, which was to be expected if the dock broke loose before the nuclear power plant accident triggered by the waves, Havel said. The parks department was overseeing efforts to identify and remove the dock.
The dock was first spotted floating offshore Monday, and mistaken by several people for a barge. It washed ashore early Tuesday on Agate Beach, a mile north of Newport on the central Oregon Coast. It's made of concrete with a metal pontoon and measures 66 feet long, 19 feet wide and 7 feet high.
State police were posted to keep people from climbing on the dock, said Mitch Vance, shellfish program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Vance took samples of the mussels, barnacles and other shellfish clinging to the dock Wednesday morning. There also was green algae and brown kelp, he said.
There was no answer at the Tokyo-listed phone number for Zeniya Ocean Service Engineering Ltd., the company named on the placard, after business hours in Japan.
The placard was dated June 2008 and indicated the structure was intended for use in the port of Misawa, in Aomori Prefecture, a coastal area that was devastated by the March 2011 tsunami.
Fast-moving debris from the tsunami has begun arriving on North America's shores. It includes a soccer ball that washed up in Alaska and a shipping container holding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with Japanese license plates that turned up in British Columbia earlier this year.
The bulk of the debris is not expected until winter.
Havel said the department would be responsible for removing the barge, which remained on the beach Wednesday morning. The plaque has been put in storage. It was not yet determined whether the barge would be towed off the beach and floated somewhere for disposal, or cut up on the beach for removal.
In the meantime, small crowds of people have been showing up on the beach to see the dock.
"I think that's going to change to large crowds," Havel said.