The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council has authorized nearly half a million dollars for cleanup of Japanese tsunami debris littering Alaska beaches.
The money will go to a nonprofit organization, Gulf of Alaska Keeper, which has worked for several years to gather and dispose of ocean trash washing up on Alaska’s coastline. The council is a federal-state partnership formed to oversee ecosystem restoration using the $900 million civil settlement Exxon paid for the 1989 tanker grounding that released nearly 11 million gallons of Alaska North Slope crude oil into Prince William Sound.
The council has three state and three federal trustees, including such officials as Alaska’s attorney general and the Alaska administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Over the years, the trustee council has expended funds for research, restoration, land purchases and other projects.
The devastating Japanese tsunami in March 2011 swept a great deal of debris out to sea. The potential for this debris to wash up on Alaska’s coast has been a major concern for Alaska’s elected officials.
Gulf of Alaska Keeper, in a funding application submitted to the trustee council in December, said massive volumes of tsunami debris already have hit the state. Some of the heaviest deposits have been found on the shores of Montague and Kayak islands.
Much of the debris is lightweight and easily collected, such as Styrofoam and other plastic products. But removing all of it will require “an industrial-scale cleanup approach,” the organization said.
The trustee council, at its Feb. 21 meeting, unanimously approved a resolution providing $483,088 for Gulf of Alaska Keeper’s tsunami debris removal effort.