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State to apply for $50K grant to manage tsunami debris

July 18, 2012
The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii plans to apply for a $50,000 grant that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is making available to the state to clean up debris from the tsunami that hit Japan in March last year, an official said Tuesday.

"This small grant will barely begin to address the cost of keeping about 500 beaches in the state free of marine debris," said Gary Gill, the state Department of Health's deputy director for environmental health.

The state also will seek additional funds, he said.

The department, which is working together with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, plans to ask local nonprofit groups to apply for the grant funds to support their beach cleanup activities.

It's still working on details as NOAA just offered the grant last week.

NOAA on Monday announced it will provide grants of $50,000 each to five affected states. The other states are Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California.

The tsunami generated 20 million to 25 million tons of debris, including what was left on land. University of Hawaii researchers estimate a small share - only 1 to 5 percent of the 1 to 2 million tons of debris still in the ocean earlier this year - would likely reach U.S. and Canadian shorelines.

Separately, NOAA said Tuesday that a team of 17 scientists collected 55 tons of derelict fishing gear, plastic and other marine debris from remote atolls northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands during a monthlong trip.

The team looked for debris from the tsunami in Japan but said no debris with an explicit connection to the tsunami was found.

NOAA has collected more than 770 tons of trash from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands since it began conducting annual debris removal missions there in 1996.



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