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Washington Shuts Down Tsunami Marine Debris Hotline

Washington and other Pacific Coast states set up tsunami debris reporting hotlines in the wake of the 2011 disaster in Japan.

But now Washington state is shutting theirs down. The state's Marine Debris Task Force lead Terry Egan says over the past two years, "the calls have become fewer and fewer."

"It seems just to make good fiscal sense -- good use of tax dollars -- to suspend the line (1-855-WACOAST) because of general lack of use," he says.

Egan says ordinary litter continues to wash ashore every day. A separate state hotline to report oil and hazardous items continues unaffected and Washington beachcombers can still report hazardous marine debris -- such as gas cans, cylinders and oil drums -- 24 hours a day to 1-800-OILS-911.

Also, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to take tsunami debris sightings by email at

Egan says the most recent confirmed piece of tsunami debris to wash ashore on the Washington coast was a Japanese fishing skiff found on a Makah Reservation beach in May.

NOAA's Pacific Northwest marine debris coordinator said the most recent tsunami-related flotsam to arrive in Oregon was a gas cylinder picked up at Depoe Bay, also in May 2013.

"The tag on the cylinder afforded enough information for the Government of Japan to confirm that the cylinder originated in Japan, and was washed out to sea by the March 11, 2011 tsunami," said NOAA's Nir Barnea.

Last month, the office of Oregon's governor indicated it may shut down the Oregon Joint Tsunami Debris Task Force in the new year barring any new wave of disaster debris.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.