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NOAA hands out marine debris grants

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that $250,000 in grants was made available through its marine debris program to five states affected by debris from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami.

Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii will receive as much as $50,000 each to use toward marine debris removal efforts, according to NOAA.

The funds could be released as soon as the end of July.

"We continue to actively work with the states and other federal agencies to address the challenges associated with tsunami debris," Nancy Wallace, director of NOAA's marine debris program, said in a statement. "We are pleased to be able to contribute funds to support states' efforts to respond to and remove marine debris, including disposal fees, cleanup supplies and dumpster rentals. We remain dedicated to continuing our work with the states and others to address contingency planning, monitoring and research."

NOAA and its federal agency partners have been actively assisting the West Coast states in planning how to handle above-normal amounts of marine debris. Federal partnership efforts also include collecting and sharing data, assessing the debris and mitigating risk to navigational safety.

Japan estimated that the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean and that about 70 percent sank shortly afterward.

The remaining 1.5 million tons dispersed far across the North Pacific Ocean in an area of the ocean roughly three times the size of the lower 48 states. 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 during the next several years.

In addition to supporting state planning, NOAA has established a public email reporting system for suspected pieces of tsunami debris.

Click here for the full release.

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