By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has set aside $100,000 to remove a large container from a remote Ka‘u shoreline.
The actual cost remains unknown, but if it reaches that amount, it would double what the state is receiving in federal aid to deal with suspected tsunami debris.
It also might be as much as the agency can afford.
Chairman William Aila said the agency doesn’t have a fund set aside for removing tsunami debris and is using its Special Land Development Fund to cover the cost of removing the large yellow container.
If it had to do it twice, he said he is unsure of whether the fund, used to help cover its operating costs, would be able to make a similar contribution again.
Still, Aila said, the agency does not intend to let debris stay on the state’s shores.
“We’ll find a way to do it,” he said, adding it could seek an emergency allocation if another large item washes up.
“We won’t leave any marine debris out there just because we don’t have the funds to take care of it.”
Aila said he does plan to make a funding request to the state Legislature for debris removal when it reconvenes in January.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced in July it is providing $50,000 to each of the five Pacific coast states, including Hawaii, for tsunami debris removal.
NOAA spokeswoman Keeley Belva said she didn’t know if that money has been released. Whether additional funds will be provided in the next fiscal year remains to be determined, she said.
Japan has offered to provide the United States with $5 million for debris removal, but Belva said how that will be distributed remains unclear.
DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward has said the agency is tackling debris on a case-by-case basis due to difficulties in knowing what debris will arrive or where.
Ward said Thursday that options for removing the container, accessible by sea or a fishing trail, are still being considered.
It was reported to the agency Oct. 4.
State Sen. Gil Kahele, D-Ka‘u, Puna, Hilo, said finding funds for debris removal shouldn’t be difficult in the next session.
“As a member of the Ways and Means committee, I would definitely support this,” he said.
Kahele said he wasn’t sure if debris removal funding was discussed last session.
Though suspected of being tsunami debris, the container has no markings and DLNR is still seeking its origin, Ward said.
If from Japan, it’s unlikely it was exposed to radiation, she said, since most objects were washed away before the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Suspected tsunami debris can be reported by phone, 587-0400, or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.