OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Coastal workshops to address tsunami debris risks

04/05/2012

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Organizations on the Oregon coast are partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oregon State University Extension, Oregon Sea Grant, state and local agencies, and conservation groups on a series of community meetings to share information and science about the marine debris left by the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

The meetings will take place between April 11 and 20 in coastal communities from Port Orford to Seaside, and inland in Portland and Eugene.

Debris pulled out to sea by the Japanese tsunami last March is gradually riding the Pacific currents toward the West Coast, raising public questions about everything from derelict "ghost" ships to what to expect while beachcombing.  Oceanographers predict that the bulk of the debris could arrive on U.S. shores next year, but no one can yet predict exactly when – or how much. 

“Right now, as a result of the tragic tsunami disaster, Brookings, Ore., is rebuilding, Japan is reeling and the West Coast states are preparing to clean up an unprecedented amount of debris being carried to our coast on the ocean currents,” said Cylvia Hayes, Oregon’s First Lady. “Our oceans connect us and are essential to a healthy environment and economy.

“These workshops are important to helping us effectively deal with the tsunami debris and better protect the health of oceans and coastal communities,” Hayes added.

Oregon non-profit organizations that specialize in caring for the state’s shoreline and coping with litter report an overwhelming volume of requests and questions from their volunteers and the public about the possible arrival of tsunami-related debris.  SOLV, Surfrider Foundation, the CoastWatch program of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, and the Washed Ashore Project are partnering with Oregon Sea Grant Extension to sponsor information sessions featuring staff from NOAA’s Marine Debris Program. 

Key speaker will be Nir Barnea, West Coast regional coordinator for NOAA’s marine debris program.  He will describe what is known about the contents and trajectory of the debris and what is being done across the Pacific to prepare for it.

Barnea will be joined by representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, County Emergency Managers, and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Local waste managers and coastal haulers have also been invited as their experience with marine debris disposal could prove invaluable.

All events are free and open to the public.  After presentations, audience members will have a chance to ask questions about everything from public health to returning any personal valuables that may be found amid the debris.

Here is the tentative list of times and locations for the Japanese tsunami marine debris presentations. 

  • April 11th, Seaside 2-3:30 pm, Seaside Community Center, 1225 Ave A , Seaside
  • April 11, Bay City: 6-7:30 p.m., Bay City Arts Center, 5680 A St.
  • April 12, Pacific City: 10-11:30 a.m., Kiwanda Community Center, 34600 Cape Kiwanda Dr.
  • April 12, Newport: 6-7:30 p.m., Newport City Hall, 169 SW Coast Hwy.
  • April 13, Florence: 10-11:30 a.m., Florence Fire Station,  2625 Hwy 101.
  • April 13, North Bend: 2-3:30 p.m., North Bend Public Library, 1800 Sherman Ave.
  • April 13, Bandon: 6-7:30 p.m., City Council Chamber/City Hall, 555 Highway 101.
  • April 14, Port Orford: 10-11 a.m., American Legion Hall, 421 11th St.
  • April 14, Eugene: 3-4:30 p.m., EWEB Training Center, 500 East 4th Ave N Bldg.
  • April 15, Portland 3:30-5 p.m., Ecotrust Natural Capital Center, 721 NW 9th Ave.
  • April 20, Cannon Beach, time and location TBD

Updated information will be available from www.solv.org.

The groups expect to conduct organizing and education efforts later this year to strengthen their citizen response networks before the expected arrival of the bulk of the debris.