U.S. Senators Want Money For Monitoring Tsunami Debris

U.S. Senators Mark Begich and Washington’s Maria Cantwell want the federal government to quickly look into the potential impacts of tsunami-generated debris.

The Democrats held a press conference today (Friday) in Seattle. They called for President Barack Obama to release National Science Foundation emergency research funds. That would help scientists hone in on what needs to be done to prepare for the debris.

Begich says Alaska already has a problem with trash piling up on outer-coast beaches.

“The impacts of debris coming ashore, from tsunami or otherwise, has enormous impact to our fishing industry, our recreational industry, or shipping and our commercial industry. So ensuring that we have the right resources, the right information, the right science, it’s critical for us to plan and be prepared for whatever level the tsunami debris moves and comes close to our shores.”

It’s been a year since a devastating earthquake hit Japan, sending up to 100,000 tons of tsunami-generated debris into the Pacific Ocean.

Oyster buoys, damaged ships and other junk have already been found from Southeast Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island to the Aleutians.

Cantwell cited a derelict fishing boat spotted this week near northern British Columbia as an example of what’s to come.

The senators voiced their concerns in a letter to Obama. They also criticized a proposed 25 percent cut in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s funding for shoreline cleanup.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.