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Bonamici’s Tsunami Debris Bills Pass House with Overwhelming Support

April 1, 2014
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Two bills introduced by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici to protect Pacific Northwest coastal communities from the economic and environmental impacts of tsunami debris passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming support today.

The Tsunami Debris Cleanup Reimbursement Act (H.R. 1491) and the Marine Debris Emergency Act (H.R. 1425) were included as part of a larger package of legislation approved by the House as the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act, H.R. 4005. The first bill, the Tsunami Debris Cleanup Reimbursement Act, would allow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to refund Oregon and other states for the cost of tsunami debris cleanup using $5 million donated by Japan. The second bill, the Marine Debris Emergency Act, would allow NOAA to prioritize grant applications from communities facing severe marine debris events.

“The 2011 tsunami that struck Japan continues to threaten Oregon’s coastal areas by bringing debris and non-native species into delicate ecosystems,” Bonamici said. “Many residents in my district rely on our beaches and waterways to earn a living. Oregon’s coastal areas are already suffering from the effects of invasive marine organisms, which compete with, prey on, and crowd out native plants and animals. The introduction of additional aquatic invasive species into our coastal ecosystems could be devastating. This legislation ensures that in the future, coastal communities in Oregon and wherever there is a marine debris emergency will be able to access critical resources to fund timely clean-up and recovery operations in tsunami related environmental emergencies.”

Communities on the West Coast began to experience a large increase in marine debris following the tragic Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan three years ago. Among the debris was a 66-foot dock that washed up on Agate Beach covered in potentially invasive marine species. 

In response to this threat, Bonamici introduced both bills which were approved unanimously by the House Natural Resources Committee last December. The bipartisan support illustrates how timely marine debris clean-up is to communities on the East and West Coasts.

“The threat of severe marine events is real and we must continue to be prepared for that,” Bonamici said. “These bills ensure that coastal communities facing the greatest risk will be protected and won’t be left without support when their residents need it most.”