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Hawaii to get $250,000 to clean tsunami debris

By Becky Bohrer

Associated Press


JUNEAU, Alaska» The five western 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 needs arise. It's unclear how far the money will stretch for what some state officials and beach-cleaning groups expect to be a yearslong problem.

Alaska is preparing to ask NOAA for up to $750,000 in additional funds to help with cleanup this year.

Unlike other states where beaches are accessible year-round, many of the beaches targeted for cleanup in Alaska are remote or hard to reach, sometimes requiring debris be hauled out by boat or helicopter. There also is a narrow window for conducting the work, generally running into September. While some crews have been out this year, poor weather has delayed cleanup or surveillance in other parts of the state.

Even $1 million isn't sufficient to meet Alaska's needs, said Janna Stewart, a temporary employee with the state Department of Environmental Conservation assigned to the tsunami debris issue. Chris Pallister, president of the beach-cleaning group Gulf of Alaska Keeper, estimated based on what he saw last summer that cleaning 74 miles of shoreline on Montague Island in the Gulf of Alaska would cost in the "$10 million range."

In anticipation of receiving the $250,000, the state has been working on solicitations for debris removal and disposal and help in updating aerial surveys done last year.

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. The Alaska Legislature provided $1 million to Gulf of Alaska Keeper, but the governor — who has seen tsunami debris cleanup as a federal responsibility — has not yet announced whether he will keep that in the budget.

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 long-standing 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.

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Uncleart66 wrote:
Use it to repave the roads quick before the Troll gets it!!!!
on May 18,2013 | 03:13AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Yes, don't leave any checks lying around.
on May 18,2013 | 06:49AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Don't leave the women lying around as well.
on May 18,2013 | 08:48AM
allie wrote:
on May 18,2013 | 09:04AM
mikethenovice wrote:
$250,000 is enough for only ten potholes.
on May 18,2013 | 08:47AM
fbg wrote:
Lets return this money to the true victims of this natural disaster!!!
on May 18,2013 | 07:06AM
kailua000 wrote:
do you really think if the money was returned it would go to the victims? this is politics. I say Hawaii should use the money and allocate what we had allocated to feed our children who are homeless or buy books for our junk educational system. If I thought it would go back to the people of japan, I'd say do it, but it wont.
on May 18,2013 | 08:06AM
mikethenovice wrote:
One buck for each victim before taxes. Pay your taxes. We don't need the nosy IRS to follow us.
on May 18,2013 | 08:50AM
mikethenovice wrote:
At $250,000. Only one buck for each victims.
on May 18,2013 | 08:49AM
967972005 wrote:
The states who accept that money should be ashamed of themselves.
on May 18,2013 | 07:32AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Agree. The US dumped a half billion dollars into a rat hole called Haiti following its devastating earthquake in January 2010. Total foreign financial aid to Haiti was $2.4 billion and there is nothing to show for it. Haiti today looks almost the same as it did when the earthquake hit. Japan, on the other hand, did not request foreign financial and very little was tendered. Japan has done a remarkable job cleaning up the debris with the people of Japan absorbing the estimated $1 trillion in clean-up cost. The least we can do is absorb whatever it costs to clean up debris which may wash up on our shores.
on May 18,2013 | 01:09PM
false wrote:
Well, the way the state operates, that should pay for one days work and one dump truck full of trash.
on May 18,2013 | 07:44AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Only a measly $250,000? That will barely pay for the gas.
on May 18,2013 | 08:46AM
mikethenovice wrote:
The debris should shipped back to Japan.
on May 18,2013 | 08:47AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Ship the debris back to Japan? You must believe Japan was responsible for the earthquake and tsunami that generate the debris. I would say to ship you back with the debris, but Japan is too nice a place for someone like you.
on May 18,2013 | 12:51PM
soundofreason wrote:
This is GREAT news. Now the homeless will have something to do AND get paid for it! No?
on May 18,2013 | 08:59AM
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