Cantwell Statement on Discovery of Potential Tsunami-Blown Ship on Ilwaco-area Beach

Senator: ‘Debris from the tragic tsunami in Japan is a national problem’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) issued the following statement in response to the discovery of a boat covered in Japanese writing near Ilwaco. This could be the first major piece of tsunami debris found on a Washington state beach, though smaller debris has been found.

"The discovery of this potential tsunami debris on Washington shores is yet another reminder that the federal government needs a comprehensive plan in place to protect our coastal communities. Federal agencies need to ensure that communities like Ilwaco get the tools they need to prepare for and clean up tsunami debris and potential disruptions from invasive species.

"The debris from the tragic tsunami in Japan is a national problem. West Coast states and communities cannot and should not carry the burden and cost of dealing with tsunami debris on our own."

According to recent reports, the 65-foot-long dock that washed up on a beach in Central Oregon carried 2 tons of sea life, including some harmful invasive species. Invasive species could threaten Washington state’s coastal economy, which supports $10.8 billion in economic activity and 165,000 jobs and depends on a healthy marine ecosystem.

On March 30th in Seattle, Cantwell and Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) called on President Obama to allocate emergency resources to mobilize National Science Foundation (NSF) research to help track and respond to tsunami debris. Expediting NSF grants would help coastal communities get more specific estimates of what might hit shores – and when.

On March 7th, Cantwell urged the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to step up programs to analyze the potential danger of tsunami debris. During an Oceans, Fisheries, Coast Guard, and Atmosphere Subcommittee hearing, Cantwell questioned NOAA head Dr. Jane Lubchenco on the agency’s readiness to address the tsunami debris poses to Washington state’s coastal economy. President Obama’s FY13 budget proposed a 25 percent cut to NOAA’s Marine Debris Program.

Last November, Cantwell secured Senate Commerce Committee passage of an amendment to address the threat approaching tsunami debris poses to economies up and down Washington’s coastline. Cantwell’s amendment would identify the debris as a unique threat and require the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to develop an interagency action plan to help prepare our region for this potentially serious problem. Cantwell continues to fight to ensure a plan is in place to address the threat tsunami debris poses to Washington state’s coastal economy.

After a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, an enormous amount of debris was washed out to sea. One year later, very little is known about the composition or trajectory of the debris.