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Alaska editorial: A few volunteers not enough against debris

Posted: June 22, 2012 - 12:03am

This editorial first ran in the Kodiak Daily Mirror:

Recently, the Associated Press ran a lengthy exposé about a problem Kodiak residents are already familiar with — marine garbage.

The same day, Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced she would be flying over the Gulf of Alaska to examine garbage from last year’s Japanese tsunami.

Flights are one thing — but we need action on the ground. Better yet, we need action on the waves.

Since the tsunami, Alaska has had ample warning about what’s coming: Waves of garbage will wash up on our beaches.

We’re already starting to see the first arrivals: oyster floats, foam rubber and other light debris blown by both wind and wave.

In Oregon, a 165-ton, 66-foot-long fishing dock has already washed up.

Alaska’s danger will be delayed, but not deferred. When big, heavy objects crash ashore, they might carry toxic chemicals or human remains from a disaster that killed at least 16,000 people.

More likely, they will carry invasive species that can conquer our natural environment, brushing aside native species.

We must act, and we must do so quickly. Workshops and overflights are not enough.

We need boots on the ground and gloves in the sand. Locally, organizations and small groups have taken matters into their own hands. They need help, both from local volunteers and resources from the state and federal government.

The duty of a government is to protect and serve its citizens. Failing to act now, with a danger clear and present, is failing both obligations.

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