Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) today announced that she will introduce the Tsunami Debris Cleanup Reimbursement Act next week to allow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to refund Oregon and other states for tsunami debris cleanup expenses using $5 million in funding donated by the government of Japan. Bonamici made the announcement at a roundtable discussion in Astoria during which she received updates about cleanup efforts from local officials and stakeholders.
"In December, NOAA received $5 million from the Japanese government to aid coastal states with tsunami debris cleanup," Bonamici said. "Unfortunately, current law prevents that money from being spent retroactively. When I return to Washington, I'll introduce the bipartisan Tsunami Debris Cleanup Reimbursement Act to correct this problem and allow states to receive refunds for debris cleanup expenses they've already incurred."
Bonamici also announced she is gathering support for and would soon reintroduce the Marine Debris Emergency Act to help communities that have been impacted by a "severe marine debris event" secure federal assistance. The bill will expedite the current grant award process made through NOAA's Marine Debris Program and give preference to communities facing severe debris events. Bonamici introduced the bill last year after hosting her first roundtable on the issue to help coordinate and streamline debris removal efforts by local, state, and federal partners.
Communities in the Pacific Ocean and on the West Coast of the United States began to experience a significant increase in marine debris arriving on their beaches and coastline following the tragic Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami that devastated the nation of Japan in March 2011. The first high-profile piece of debris was an abandoned fishing vessel that the U.S. Coast Guard sank off the coast of Alaska. Later, a 66-foot dock covered in potentially invasive marine species landed on an Oregon beach. Similar items have continued to arrive in recent months, and some oceanographers predict that the volume will increase.