Tsunami debris cleanup funds lose out to super storm Sandy

Efforts to boost federal appropriations for marine debris
cleanup in five western states have taken a back seat in Congress, in the wake
of efforts to clean up the east coast from superstorm Sandy.
Congress on Jan. 5 approved a $9.7 billion package for the
National Flood Insurance Program to help those hard hit by Sandy in October.
Both the House and Senate were to consider on Jan. 15 another $51 billion
package for Sandy damage.
An aide to Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said Jan. 5 that
funds for marine debris cleanup meanwhile were reduced from $56.8 million to
$50 million and specified to be only for Sandy-related marine debris, “so in
other words we’re getting nothing.
“The fisheries disaster money suffered a similar
fate-reduced from $150 million to $5 million and directed to a fishery on the
East Coast affected by the storm,” said Begich aide Amy Miller, in an email
response on the status of $15 million Begich sought from the Senate
Appropriations Committee for marine debris cleanup from the Japanese tsunami.
“We’re going to try to reinstate the funds when the bill
comes back to the senate, but we’re not super optimistic about those
prospects,” Miller said. “If we can’t get the money in this bill we’ll look for
the next available opportunity.”
Begich said earlier that he was very grateful for the
Japanese peoples’ gift of $5 million to address the tsunami debris and thought
the very least the US could do would be to provide a 3-to-1 match of $15
Scientists have estimated that up to 1.5 million tons of
debris was swept into the ocean by the Japanese tsunami and is being carried
toward the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and California.
“I hope we can find a way to use these funds to leverage
private-sector dollars as well, as the scope of the tsunami debris problem is
truly overwhelming,” Begich said in late December in a letter to Sen. Daniel
Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Begich also reminded Inouye that he had already requested in
a separate document $45 million to respond to the multi-year Chinook salmon run
failures in Alaska, which have hit hard at commercial and subsistence
Inouye, who was a close friend of the late former Sen. Ted
Stevens, R-Alaska, passed away Dec. 17. Together Inouye and Stevens had over
the years brought home billions in federal dollars to Hawaii and Alaska.