Some residents plead for help in tsunami debris cleanup

WARRENTON, Ore. - Mark and Kathy Mead spent another day Friday collecting debris presumably from the Japanese tsunami.

Meanwhile, federal, state and local leaders met down the road in Cannon Beach to figure out what to do about the problem.

On Thursday the Meads showed KATU News the debris they have been collecting almost daily on the beach near their home. Mark was frustrated because he's contacted every elected official he can think of about the stuff arriving on the beach and hadn't gotten anywhere.

So KATU News reporter Anna Canzano called state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose. She came to Warrenton Friday morning to see for herself what Mark could collect in just 15 minutes.

"If this all came on shore, whatever is out there, all came on shore at once it would be a national disaster," Johnson said. "We would have Congress wanting to act; we would have a lot of attention. The problem is this could come on shore for God knows how long. It could come on shore for years."

Johnson was so stunned she invited Mark to join her at the meeting in Cannon Beach hosted by U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, who wound up digging through Mark's bag of garbage herself.

Bonamici may have to search even harder to find federal funds to clean up the debris.

"I'm going to be looking wherever I can and make it a priority because there's a lot at stake here," Bonamici said.

After the meeting Mark was back on the beach again picking up debris.

"It was a bunch of, 'check our website, and that's it,'" he said were his thoughts about the meeting. "There's no action; there's no dumpsters; there's no bags; there's no cleanup."

Local leaders, however, are demanding changes from the U.S. Coast Guard about tsunami debris. They don't want to be caught off guard again like when a giant dock floated onto shore.

The Coast Guard says it was first notified about the floating dock by people who saw it floating in the water but waited until the next day to alert boaters.

The Coast Guard is pledging to alert boaters and the public earlier. Meanwhile, federal ocean experts are predicting larger objects to wash ashore in the coming months.

One of the key points Sen. Johnson stressed at the meeting was having a single point of contact for the public - one phone number to call - that can act as a clearinghouse if people find debris.

A spokesperson for Gov. John Kitzhaber said she'll take that idea back to Salem.

Later in the day, a 20-foot fishing boat and several other pieces of debris with Japanese writing was discovered washed up on the beach at Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco, Wash. Officials with NOAA are trying to determine if the debris is from Japan's March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.