Editorial: Tsunami cleanup readiness crucial

As potentially dangerous debris from Japan's tsumani washes up on B.C.'s shore, the need for a plan grows more pressing.

Coastal authorities in B.C., including those in the Capital Region, have long been putting together tsunami and earthquake preparedness plans.

But the need is growing greater for the three levels of government to have a definite plan in place to deal with potentially environmentally dangerous debris from last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan washing up on B.C. coastlines.

Items ripped apart by the powerful waves, much of them covered with sea life that could threaten native species, have for months been arriving on the western shorelines of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii. Residents and others concerned about threats to the pristine nature of coastal areas have been doing their best to remove the material.

No one knows, given the unpredictable nature of ocean currents, just how much flotsam will reach B.C. shores in the coming months and years. But enough has arrived already to inform provincial and federal authorities of the extent of the problem.

The province is in a “fact-gathering stage” on the issue, said Environment Minister Terry Lake, who last week toured Haida Gwaii. His comments that any cleanup plan must be a joint effort between local, provincial and federal governments and First Nations make sense, but indicate the province is not willing to take the lead on tackling this problem.

When a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a packing crate washed up on a Haida Gwaii beach in April, and its owner, who had lost three family members and his home in the disaster, was located, it was a bittersweet story. But the washing ashore of a 20-metre concrete and steel dock in Oregon on June 6 was a further sign that the worst is likely yet to come.

This week’s shockingly low cleanup grant of $50,000 from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for each of the five states affected, shows how low this issue is on that government’s priority list.

We hope our federal government, already showing a similar lack of respect for the environment through budget cuts, does not take a similar tack by downplaying this serious issue.