Inouye Steps Up With Money for Tsunami Debris Cleanup

Flickr: Kordian

Scientists worried about tons of debris from the March tsunami in Japan approaching U.S. shores unchecked have gotten some help from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Hawaii's senior senator was able to insert $1 million into an appropriations bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday, according to a press release from Inouye's office.

Scientists and government officials estimate as much as 25 million tons of debris from the tsunami are headed toward Hawaii and the West Coast, and could begin washing up on coastlines as early as next year.

Civil Beat reported that University of Hawaii scientists, who have been tracking the huge debris field, have been meeting with a slew of federal and state officials to try to come up with a plan to clean up as much of the debris as possible before it pollutes shorelines and harms fish and other marine life. But officials have been struggling to come up with a plan and have been hampered by lack of funding.

Inouye, who chairs the Senate Committee on Appropriations, inserted $1 million into H.R. 2112, the funding measure that already included $4 million for the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration's marine debris program. Inouye's request specifies money for tsunami-related tracking and cleanup.

The Senate pass the bill on a 69-30 vote. The bill now goes to conference with the House.

The funding is for fiscal year 2012, and would be released to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration immediately after the bills passage, according to Peter Boylan, Inouye's deputy chief of staff for government and external affairs.

"In recent months federal agencies and scientists in Hawaii working to track the flow of the tsunami debris have fretted openly about the potential for major marine ecosystem damage and the lack of a plan or money to deal with the debris," according to a statement from the senator.

“As an island state, Hawaii is particularly susceptible to the impacts of marine debris and, all the more so, because we are located near the center of a great network of ocean currents in the Pacific that tend to concentrate debris into a wide region known as the “garbage patch”," Inouye said in the statement.

"Our state has long been at the forefront of efforts dealing with this issue and in fact we have recently become the first state to develop and implement a comprehensive marine debris action plan," he said. "This plan and other marine debris programs are likely to be even more valuable to us as recent research suggests that the tragic Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami that struck in March, resulted in a tremendous amount of lost infrastructure that may begin to reach our shores as soon as next year."

DISCUSSION: Do you think the more attention needs to be paid to finding and cleaning up the tsunami debris?

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