Thursday, April 24, 2014

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) this week introduced two bills that would assist coastal states with tsunami debris cleanup. The Tsunami Debris Cleanup Reimbursement Act, H.R. 1491, would 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. The Marine Debris Emergency Act, H.R. 1425, would expedite the current grant award process made through NOAA's Marine Debris Program and give preference to communities facing severe marine debris events.

"A significant amount of debris has already washed up on our coast, and we can only expect that there is more to come," said Bonamici. "States like Oregon should be reimbursed for the expenses they've already incurred and there should be a more efficient process to apply for future cleanup funding. I am continuing to gather support for these initiatives, and I am encouraged that both bills already have bipartisan support."

Bonamici announced her plan to introduce the Tsunami Debris Cleanup Reimbursement Act at a roundtable discussion in Astoria, Oregon last week. Original cosponsors of the bill include Reps. Don Young (R-AK), DeFazio (D-OR), Schrader (D-OR), Adam Smith (D-WA), Farr (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), Speier (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Chu (D-CA), Blumenauer (D-OR), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Capps (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Kilmer (D-WA), Huffman (D-CA), Denny Heck (D-WA), and DelBene (D-WA).

A similar version of the Marine Debris Emergency Act was introduced in the previous Congress. Original cosponsors of this year's bill include: Reps. Herrera Beutler (R-WA), DeFazio (D-OR), Adam Smith (D-WA), Schrader (D-OR), Chu (D-CA), Farr (C-CA), Honda (D-CA), Speier (D-CA), Blumenauer (D-OR), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Capps (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Kilmer (D-WA), McDermott (D-WA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Don Young (R-AK), Reichert (R-WA), Huffman (D-CA), Denny Heck (D-WA), and DelBene (D-WA).

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.

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