Agency weighs removal of tsunami debris


By TOM CALLIS

Tribune-Herald staff writer

A large metal container found on a remote Ka‘u shoreline last week, possibly debris from the Japan tsunami, may not be going anywhere soon.

Deborah Ward, state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman, said she couldn’t estimate when the large object will be removed, though the agency is looking at its options.

The 10-foot high and 20-foot wide yellow container is proving to have a few logistical hurdles, she said, due to its size and location at the foot of a fishing trail four miles south of Naalehu.

“There are some challenges as far as access,” Ward said, adding the agency is considering removing it by land or sea.

“We’re trying to figure out which makes the most sense the most feasible and the least damaging.”

A sighting of the container was reported to DLNR on Thursday.

It has no markings and its origins remain uncertain. But Jan Hafner, a member of the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center, said the timing of its arrival suggests it’s a product of the tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011.

“The timing is probably the proof,” he said.

Hafner, along with university scientist Nikolai Maximenko, have been modeling the progress of the debris from Japan.

Items from the tsunami’s debris field, ranging from light bulbs to a dock and fiberglass skiff, have been arriving in Hawaii for the past month, and possibly as early as June. Debris could continue to arrive through winter and spring.

Ward said the agency is taking a case-by-case approach to dealing with tsunami debris since it’s difficult to predict what will come or where it will end up.

Where large debris, such as the container, will be disposed of also remains to be determined.

“We’re looking at all the options and what makes the most sense,” she said.

Funding for the removal of the container and other large objects is coming from the agency’s Special Land Development Fund, Ward said, which includes revenue from state land leases.

How much is in that fund wasn’t immediately available.

The research center lists 10 “likely tsunami debris” sightings on its website, including the container and a large red light bulb found at Kawaihae Harbor last month.

Hafner said the first potential tsunami debris to make it to Hawaii was a buoy found on a beach near Hilo in June.

The buoy resembled those used for aquaculture operations in Japan, though its origin couldn’t be confirmed.

DLNR is asking that anyone who finds small tsunami debris, like plastic bottles, dispose of them safely.

Larger items can be reported by phone, 587-0400, or by email, dlnr@hawaii.gov.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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