NEWS

B.C. Minister Tours Haida Gwaii, Surveys Tsunami Debris

07/09/2012 10:17 EDT | Updated 09/08/2012 05:12 EDT
AP
B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake is scheduled to meet with local government officials and First Nations on Haida Gwaii today to talk about debris from the Japanese tsunami.

Lake and his team are touring the area on Monday to survey the tsunami debris first-hand and start developing a possible cleanup plan.

"There's been a lot of concern about the extent of the problem and there has been some accounts that would indicate that the extent of the problem is getting to be quite bad," he said.

"So one of our goals … is to get a first-hand account, talk to local people about the amount of debris that's washing up — is it normal amounts for this time of year, or are they seeing abnormal quantities?"

Speaking to CBC News from Haida Gwaii on Sunday, Lake said the problem is expected to get worse over the next year.

"So far what we've heard is that certainly there seems to be an increase in volume. It's certainly not out of hand at this particular time, but it does help inform our plans moving forward in terms of handling the debris," he said.

"We have to work with local government and First Nations and volunteer groups because it's going to take more than one organization or group of people in order to manage the situation as the debris increases in volume, which we expect will happen into 2013."

No funding earmarked yet

Lake and his team are looking at what resources are available locally to manage the debris and what plans need to be made for offshore solutions.

"There's a limited amount of land space here to manage the debris, so we're here to talk about contingency plans if we need to move the debris off island and how we would manage that."

Lake said the cleanup will ultimately involve all three levels of government — local, provincial and federal — as well as local First Nations.

"We need to make sure that we're working together and come up with a plan that makes sense," he said.

"We have yet to come up with a funding source because we don't, at this stage, know the extent of the problem. So it would be premature to earmark a certain amount of money. We are in the fact-gathering stage at this time."

Lake said provincial officials will use the visit to build a business case around clean-up costs, which will like be shared by all three levels of government.

Lake's tour of Haida Gwaii is expected to wrap up Monday afternoon.