NOAA Marine Debris Funding Announced, Senator Begich disappointed
Yesterday, NOAA announced that $250,000 in grants has been made available through its marine debris program to five states impacted by debris from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami. Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii will receive up to $50,000 each to use toward marine debris removal efforts. The funds could be released as soon as the end of July.
In the NOAA release, Nancy Wallace, the director of NOAA's marine debris program said, “We continue to actively work with the states and other Federal agencies to address the challenges associated with tsunami debris, we are pleased to be able to contribute funds to support states’ efforts to respond to and remove marine debris, including disposal fees, cleanup supplies, and dumpster rentals. We remain dedicated to continuing our work with the states and others to address contingency planning, monitoring and research.”
It is estimated by Japan that at least 5 million tons of debris was let loose into the Pacific Ocean by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that took place in Japan in 2011. Japan feels that as much as 70% of that debris has sunk to the bottom of the ocean, but the remaining 1.5 million tons of debris is still floating around in an area roughly three times the size of the lower 48.
After learning of the allocation of funds for the five western states affected by the debris, Alaska's Senator Mark Begich issued a statement yesterday.
Commenting on the $50,000 being sent to Alaska for clean-up efforts, the Senator said, “A grant of $50,000 to Alaska is woefully inadequate to deal with the marine debris washing up on our coastal communities. That isn’t enough money for one beach clean-up, let alone the type of effort necessary for a large-scale planning and clean-up effort covering multiple states.
“I asked the Obama administration in May for $45 million over two years to combat what is a slow-motion environmental disaster that will unfold over several years.
“The small amounts of these grants only serve to underline the inadequate attention and funding the administration is giving to this crisis. I hope the White House will take this seriously and look for creative solutions needed to help fund boots on the beach and get this mess cleaned up.”
Begich sent a letter to President Obama in May after chairing a hearing of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard. That Subcommmittee is part of the the Senate Commerce Committee.
Testimony from the Coast Guard and NOAA was taken on what is being done to deal with the enormous amounts of debris threatening the shores of the western states.
Senator Begich will be meeting with Dr Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator later this week to press for a better response.