Local News: Marine Debris Cleanup; Wildfire; Home Prep; School Levy; Whales

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Local News

States to get token marine debris cleanup funding

It’s been described as a “slow-motion environmental disaster” that could take years to unfold.  The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan unleashed hundreds of thousands of tons of household, industrial and environmental detritus into the Pacific Ocean… some of which has already made it to shore on the West Coast of the U.S., but much more is likely out there.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced yesterday it will provide a quarter-million dollars in grants to five west coast states to help pay for the cleanup.  But Alaska Senator Mark Begich quickly deemed the amount “woefully inadequate”.  The Democrat says the $50-thousand that each state will receive isn’t even enough to clean up one beach.

He’s requested the Federal Government provide at least $45-million to pay for the job.

Volunteers have picked up a large amount of broken pieces of insulating foam and dozens of fishing floats, along with water bottles over the past few months in the Florence area alone.  Seasonal wind patterns are expected to prevent any sizable landfalls over the next few months, but experienced beach combers say when winter storms bring westerly winds there could be another onslaught.

More Fire Weather On the Way

Good weekend weather helped firefighters in the eastern portion of the state get the upper hand on large blazes, but forecasters say thunderstorms could spark a new round this week.  The National Weather Service has issued a red-flag warning for northeastern Oregon and Southeastern Washington for the next several days.  Firefighters took advantage of lower temperatures and higher humidity to fully contain the Long Draw Fire that scorched more than 900 square miles east of Steens Mountain.

Fire Resist Your Home

The Oregon State Fire Marshall and the State Department of Forestry say it’s not too late to help prepare your home for a wildfire defense… even on the West side of Oregon.  State Fire Marshall Jim Walker says the most critical factor is to remove or reduce flammable fuels with a 100-foot safety zone around your home.  Clean needles and leaves off your roof and out of the gutters and keep nearby trees and shrubs pruned.  More information on how to keep your home fire safe can be found at www.firewise.org.
School Levy Extension Request Possible

Elected officials will meet tomorrow evening to begin discussions on how to go about winning voter approval of another special tax levy to help fund schools.  The current “local operating levy” approved by voters three years ago provides just over one-million dollars each year to Siuslaw Schools.  It will expire in 2013.  Siuslaw School Board members will hold a special work session tomorrow evening following their regular monthly meeting at the district office on Oak Street.

What Kind of Whale?

Gray whales aren’t the only species of sea-going mammals that can be spotted off the Oregon Coast.  They’re just now beginning to show up in Northwest waters after spending the spring feeding and rearing young near Mexico.  Barb Lagerquist with the Oregon State Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport says humpback and blue whales are also visible from time to time.  Lagerquist says they typically stay further from shore than the grays, but occasionally can be spotted from higher vantage points along the coast.