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Begich Asks NOAA for Update on Marine Debris Plans

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today sent a letter to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrator (NOAA) Dr. Jane Lubchenco asking for some answers regarding plans to deal with the debris that is expected to hit the shores of western states, including Alaska, from the devastating tsunami which hit northern Japan last year.

“Residents of Alaska and other western coastal states are understandably concerned by the estimated 25 million tons of debris swept into the North Pacific during last year’s devastating tsunami which hit northern Japan,” Begich writes. “Some wind-driven fishing floats are reported to have reached shore in Washington and Alaska.”

In the letter, Begich writes about the Senate Commerce Committee’s recent actions in response to the issue. Begich co-sponsored Sen. Daniel Inouye’s Trash Free Seas Act, which reauthorizes NOAA’s Marine Debris program. The bill includes $1 million for tsunami debris monitoring and cleanup, which Begich requests an outline for how it will be spent.

Additionally, Begich asks for answers to several questions including:

·         An update on the status of the debris field and latest projections of transit times;

·         Response planning with other federal agencies and state, local and tribal governments;

·         Special concerns such as dealing with potentially hazardous waste;

·         Public outreach and communications plan;

·         Additional needs to address this severe debris event.

“With fishing floats already hitting the coastline, we know tons of twisted debris is likely to follow. We need as much information as we can get now, to prepare for the future,” Begich said.

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