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$100,000 devoted to removal of large container on Big Isle

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Officials do not know whether this 10- to 15-foot-tall metal container is debris from last year’s Japan tsunami, but the $100,000 budget for its removal is double what the state has received in federal aid to remove all tsunami debris.

HILO » The state has set aside $100,000 to remove a large metal container that washed ashore on a remote Hawaii island beach.

The 10- to 15-foot-tall yellow container doesn’t have any markings, and officials don’t know whether it’s debris pulled out to sea by the tsunami that hit Japan last year.

The actual cost of removing the container remains unknown. But if it costs $100,000, the state would spend twice as much removing one object as the federal aid it received to remove tsunami debris.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has provided Hawaii, like other Pacific coastal states, with grants of $50,000 each to clean up such debris.

Oregon paid a contractor about $84,000 to remove one 66-foot concrete dock from Japan that washed up on a beach there earlier this year.

Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources doesn’t have a fund set aside for removing tsunami debris, the department’s director, William Aila Jr., told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

The state is setting aside the $100,000 from a special land development fund, Aila said. He’s unsure whether the fund would have enough in it to cover debris removal if another similar piece was found.

Still, Aila said, the agency doesn’t intend to let debris stay on the state’s shores.

"We’ll find a way to do it," he said, adding it could seek an emergency allocation if another large item washes up.

Aila said he plans to ask the Legislature for debris removal money when lawmakers start a new session in January.

Sen. Gil Kahele (D, Hilo-Naalehu) said finding funds for debris removal shouldn’t be difficult in the next session.

"As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, I would definitely support this," he said.

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