The economic impact of tsunami debris floating across the Pacific Ocean could reach far beyond the cost of cleanup. Oregon lawmakers believe the debris could be a threat to the fishing and shipping industries.
Oregon senator Ron Wyden (D) says he is working with the federal government to come up with a plan to deal with the debris still floating towards the coast. The goal is to keep it away from ships. But the question that faces Oregon and Washington government agencies is about who is responsible.
“The primary financial responsibility cor cleanup lies without federal government,” said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Sen. Wyden says he is concerned that the actual citizens affected by the debris will be overlooked as governmental agencies point fingers about responsibility.
“I want to make sure that Oregonians don't get lost when one agency says it's somebody else's job and that's what we're going to have to deal with,” Wyden said. “Every day, fisherman are coming across even more tsunami debris in the ocean.”
Fisherman said they see mostly small debris,l like Styrofoam floating around. However, they fear the larger items – like the dock that washed up recently.
“If you hit something like that it’s going to sink it,” said fisherman Mark Schneider who normally works at night, which means much less visibility. “And then your in the water calling the Coast Guard to come and save you.”
Some people have suggested creating a website where fishermen can report and monitor the location of debris. But cleaning it up still won’t be easy.
“Our crew recovered over 500 pounds of material in one day and there has to some mechanism to take that material some place to dispose of it,” said Larry Thevick, a commercial fisherman in Washington.