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Southern California environment news and trends

California to receive federal grant for tsunami cleanup

Millions of tons of debris from the tsunami in Japan are washing toward the western U.S.
Millions of tons of debris from the tsunami in Japan are washing toward the western U.S. University of Hawaii/NOAA

California will be among five states to divide $250,000 in federal grants to help clean up incoming debris from last year’s devastating tsunami in Japan.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week that California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Alaska will receive as much as $50,000 each towards tsunami debris removal, with funds available as early as the end of this month.

"We continue to actively work with the states and other Federal agencies to address the challenges associated with tsunami debris," said Nancy Wallace, director of NOAA's marine debris program in a statement. "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."

If $50,000 seems like a meager amount in face of the mounting tsunami debris across the affected states, it’s a sentiment shared by Alaskan Democratic Senator Mark Begich, who according to the Huffington Post requested $45 million in government aid towards cleanup.

“The small amounts of these grants only serve to underline the inadequate attention and funding the administration is giving to this crisis,” Begich said in a statement.

The NOAA also used the opportunity to announce the establishment of a public email reporting system for suspected pieces of tsunami debris. Of the 529 reports so far, only 10 have been verified as genuine tsunami debris from Japan.

In Canada, a motorcycle swept away in the tsunami was recovered and is being restored by Harley-Davidson for the grateful owner. 

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