Tsunami debris plan to be heard this week in Port Angeles

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The state’s plan to manage the Japan tsunami debris expected to inundate beaches, including those in Clallam and Jefferson counties, this winter will be discussed Wednesday at a public meeting of the state Marine Debris Task Force.

The meeting, at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Port Angeles Senior Center, 328 E. Seventh St., will be the public’s first opportunity to address the North Olympic Peninsula’s specific needs and concerns with the state task force.

Regional meetings also will be held in Ocean Shores at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15 — at the Ocean Shores Convention Center, 120 W. Chance A La Mer Ave. — and at 3 p.m. Dec. 5 in Long Beach — at the Peninsula Church Center, 5000 “N” Place.

The task force will gather feedback and answer questions about the state plan for handling marine debris transported to state shores by ocean and wind currents from the March 11, 2011, Japan tsunami.

The plan released in September relies on volunteers and volunteer organizations for the bulk of the cleanup, while state and federal agencies will assist as needed to remove items that demand special equipment, training or handling.

In August, the state received a $50,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — or NOAA — to fund trash bins to be placed at popular beaches, to purchase trash bags and gloves, and to employ crews with the Washington Conservation Corps, or WCC.

The state is working with communities to determine places for bins and to distribute trash bags and gloves, and some already have been placed, said Linda Kent, state Department of Ecology spokeswoman.

Since October 2011, beachcombers have been finding items on Pacific Northwest beaches that could be traced to the tsunami, beginning with large floats that were used in Japanese shellfish farming that were driven by winds ahead of the main body of debris.

The earthquake and tsunami claimed nearly 20,000 lives, destroyed homes and structures, and swept 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean.

An estimated 70 percent of the debris sank near Japan’s shore, while the remaining 1.5 million tons of debris entered ocean currents.

Beach-goers who encounter potentially hazardous debris should not touch or attempt to move it. Hazardous items should be reported to the state hotline at 855-922-6278.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife will respond to possible invasive species attached to debris.

Report debris sightings, including the time, date, location and any photos, to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.

The full text of the marine debris plan is available at http://marinedebris.wa.gov.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 03. 2012 5:43PM
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