NEWPORT, Ore. – Pacific Northwest cities have said they don’t have the money to deal with all the tsunami debris that has started washing ashore, and now shipping and fishing industries are saying they’re concerned about safety.
Lawmakers met at Agate Beach Saturday to take a look at the Japanese dock that washed up weeks ago, and to discuss options for cleaning up and tracking other debris.
At a town hall meeting, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Kurt Schrader said tsunami debris poses a real risk to ships going to and from the coast.
“The issues that haven’t been looked at are questions of what’s happening on the water,” Wyden said.
“I think that’s what’s got most of the fishermen in this community—and up and down the coast—very, very, very concerned,” Schrader agreed.
Tuna fisherman Rick Goche told KGW he’s more than just concerned.
“Most of us are shaking in our boots,” he said. “You hit something like the debris that’s coming at us in the night, and it’s not going to be pretty. Lives are going to be lost.”
He’s calling for a better system to notify vessels of dangerous debris. But there’s no easy solution; a single piece of debris is nearly impossible to track in the vast, pacific ocean.
The U.S. Coast Guard is charged with keeping shipping lanes clear, but beyond that relies on commercial boats to be its eyes out at sea.
“We’re the first guys that are going to see this stuff,” Goche said. He asked for a system in which everybody out on the water can put the information into one place.
It seems like a simple idea, but it’s one he believes could save lives.
Wyden and Schrader said they’ll use the information from Saturday’s meeting to figure out the best way for the government to help. Tsunami debris is expected to be an issue for at least the next year.
KGW Reporter Mark Hanrahan contributed to this report.
Photo courtesy of Murre and the Pacific