Washington state getting $50,000 in federal funds for tsunami debris cleanup

WASHINGTON -- The state of Washington will receive $50,000 in federal funds for use toward tsunami debris removal efforts, it was announced Monday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement that a total of $250,000 in grants will be issued to five states affected by debris arriving from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami. Each state will receive $50,000.

In addition to Washington, the other states are Alaska, California, Hawaii and Oregon.

NOAA said the funds could be released as soon as the end of this month.

"We continue to actively work with the states and other federal agencies to address the challenges associated with tsunami debris," said Nancy Wallace, director of NOAA's marine debris program. "We are pleased to be able to contribute funds to support states' efforts to respond to and remove marine debris."

NOAA said Japan estimated that the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean and that about 70 percent sank shortly after. The remaining 1.5 million tons dispersed far across the northern Pacific Ocean in an area roughly three times the size of the lower 48 states.

NOAA said modeling indicates that the bulk of the debris is scattered and may continue to disperse north of the main Hawaiian islands and east of Midway Atoll. A portion of the debris has already begun to reach U.S. and Canadian shores, and more is expected to continue over the next several years.