Senators Call For Emergency Research Of Tsunami Debris

Northwest Public Radio - Bellamy Pailthorp

A year after the devastating earthquake in Japan, up to 100,000 tons of tsunami generated debris is posing an urgent threat to coastal economies in the western U.S. That’s according to Senators Maria Cantwell and Mark Begich, who have written a letter to President Barack Obama, asking that emergency research funds from the National Science Foundation be mobilized to help scientists hone in on what needs to be done to prepare for the arrival of the debris.

The senators held a press conference in Seattle where they also expressed concern about a proposed 25 percent cut in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s funding for shoreline cleanup.

Senator Cantwell says a derelict fishing boat spotted this week off the coast of Canada is a stark reminder of what is headed for U.S. coasts.

"This recent vessel appearing off the coast, I think gave everybody the understanding that this debris could be moving faster than people realized," Cantwell says. "So we want the administration to work faster on a concrete plan that helps us have an adequate response to tsunami debris.

The first debris is expected to reach Hawaii later this year and Washington and Alaska early next year.

Cantwell and Begich are concerned about the potential economic impacts it will have on shipping lanes, fishing and tourism in their states. And they say satellite data that is classified could be released to tsunami researchers, as has been done in support of climate change research, to help predict how much trash will arrive and exactly when.

On the Web:

Sen Cantwell's press release:

Tsunami Debris Information and FAQs: