Today, at the Oregon Coast Economic Summit, Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley announced plans to introduce the "Marine Debris Emergency Act," a bill to help communities affected by marine debris emergencies. The bill would expedite the current grant award process made through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Marine Debris program and give preference in these grants to communities facing severe debris events.
"With debris from Japan's tsunami washing up on Oregon beaches regularly, it's clear we need an urgent response to extraordinary events like these," Merkley said. "While some initial funds have been allocated, much more is needed. Moreover, my bill would cut through the red tape to get funds to communities more quickly. I am proud to work with Congresswoman Bonamici to make these much needed changes to the Marine Debris program to serve our coastal communities better."
The arrival of this debris on the coast of the United States resulting from the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 continues to stretch the resources of state and local governments along with community groups that are assisting with response and removal. NOAA has existing grant programs available to assist with debris removal, but the process for awarding these grants is slow and does not account for extreme circumstances. The Marine Debris Emergency Act would speed the grant award process and give preference to applicants who are facing a severe marine debris event.
Earlier this year, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici introduced a companion bill, also called the "Marine Debris Emergency Act."