Washington state receives clean-up funds from Japan

By Staff
The Associated Press

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A Japanese dock washed ashore in Olympic National Park following the tsunami. (Photo from Washington State Fish and Wildlife)

JUNEAU, Alaska — The five West Coast states affected by debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan are about to receive an initial $250,000 each from a $5 million gift from Japan for cleanup.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is distributing the money to Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington and will allocate the remainder as additional needs arise. It’s unclear how far the money will stretch for what some state officials and beach-cleaning groups expect to be a years-long problem.

The Japanese gift announced last fall was greater than NOAA’s overall marine debris budget in fiscal year 2012, though $6 million has been requested as part of the president’s 2014 budget proposal. And the pool of gift funds already has taken a hit with NOAA using $478,000 toward the cost of removing a dock that washed ashore on a remote beach on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

Some states, including Hawaii and Washington, have earmarked funding of their own to aid in the cleanup and response.

It’s unclear how much debris is still floating and what might arrive on U.S. shores. Pallister said there are indications the worst of the Styrofoam that washed up on parts of Alaska’s shores is over. He and others have raised concerns about the material’s effect on fish, birds, or other wildlife.

William Aila Jr., chairman of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, said his state continues to see run-of-the-mill marine debris, a longstanding problem for coastal areas, along with things he attributes to the tsunami, such as oyster floats and boats. A large dock, similar to those that washed ashore in Oregon and Washington, moved through the island chain without reaching shore, he said.

One of his biggest concerns is the potential spread of invasive species that hitchhike on some of the debris. Aila said states will incur additional monitoring costs for this and would like to see federal assistance.

Of the more than 1,700 reports of possible tsunami debris along the western coast of North America and the open Pacific, just 29 have been definitively linked to the disaster, NOAA spokeswoman Keeley Belva said. (end)

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