Tsunami debris coming, time to act: Senators

Source: Seattle PI

Seattle PI - Joel Connelly

Japanese tsunami debris spotted off islands in the Gulf of Alaska are a “wake up call” that the federal government must immediately work out an action plan to spot and predict what is coming and give coastal towns time to react, Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said Thursday.

Pilots are reporting floats, buoys, insulation and plastics in the vicinity of Montague and Kayak Islands at opposite ends of the entrance to Prince William Sound.  Montague Island was in the path of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and was heavily oiled.

“We know the tsunami debris is on its way to our coast,” said Cantwell. “We cannot be caught by surprise:  We need clear answers and the best science available to protect Washington’s billion-dollar coastal economy.”

Begich, whose state gets hit first if debris follow the “Great Circle” route across the Pacific Ocean, added that the time for talk is “over.”

“I urge the Obama Administration to respond to our request from several weeks ago to free up funds and resources so we can effectively deal with debris and not be scrambling when this arrives,” said the Alaska senator.

Cantwell and Begich want the National Science Foundation to give instructions on tracking debris crossing the ocean from Japan’s March 2011 quake and tidal wave.

Cantwell has asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also to work with towns along the Washington and Oregon coasts, which are home to fishing fleets, refineries, working ports and recreation.