Tsunami debris a disaster in slow motion

Tsunami debris a disaster in slow motion

DUNES CITY, Ore. - Beachcombers will soon be flocking to the central Oregon Coast, just in time for the summer season.

As they walk along the sand, though, chances are they'll find more than sea shells: they'll find physical reminders of a disaster.

More possible tsunami debris continues to hit the Oregon Coast from a disaster half a world away.

Dunes City resident Erinn Holmes called KVAL News to report 8 buoys he found last weekend, some with what he believes are Japanese markings.

KVAL News hit the beach and found a pile of debris on the Waxmyrtle Trail, including an orange buoy with Japanese-looking markings.

Shirley Stentz, district manager for state parks, said they take 2 or 3 calls a week about the incoming debris.

"We expect this to be one of the slowest delivered emergencies on record," she said.

Stentz confirmed her crews have collected Styrofoam pieces, countless buoys encrusted with barnacles, and other items from the Oregon Coast.

She doesn't doubt much of it is from Japan, and most - but not all - will head for the landfill.

"There will be some relics and some personal items that come to our attention and we're going to set those aside," explains Stentz.

KVAL News also found a buoy on the beach a half a football field away from a protected Snowy Plover nesting area. Wide sections of the beach near the Siltcoos River are roped off for Snowy Plover nesting areas. 

Stentz told KVAL News, "If debris were to come in to designated Plover habitat, we'd carefully respond to that."

Tourists are concerned about the debris, too.

For vacationers Pat and Greg Fink of Corvallis, the debris is a reminder of the human toll of the disaster in Japan, 15 months ago.

"It's somebody's property," Pat said. "I watched that tsunami and all the stuff that washed out,"

"It was just, children's' toys and things, wow," Greg added.

State parks managers are still putting together a coast debris removal program this summer, but they don't know how it's going to be funded.

Stentz said coast visitors and residents can help if they find large amounts of debris they think may be from the tsunami. They encourage people to remove small debris on their own and recycle it as much as possible. 

If they find potentially hazardous materials, Stentz says people should not touch the item or try to move it. They should call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.