Who finances the bill for Japan’s Tsunami debris? MSNBC Reports

The Japanese tsunami debris washing ashore on West Coast beaches is so far a novelty that has locals talking and tourists visiting, but those sporadic beachings will become more frequent — and more costly to clean up.

In addition to removing the debris, and in some cases trying to reunite it with owners in Japan, crews must also deal with the threat of invasive marine species that could threaten local ecosystems if they grab a foothold.

Oregon’s Department of Parks and Recreation learned first hand about the costs when a 66-foot-long dock landed on a beach near Newport last month.

Volunteers helped burn non-native seaweed and other organisms clinging to the dock, and the state on Tuesday accepted a bid of $84,000 to have the structure removed from the beach. Other bids ranged as high as $240,000.

“As far as who pays, there is no single budget set aside for it at this point,” parks spokesman Chris Havel told msnbc.com. “We are working with the governor’s office and federal legislators to try and shield coastal communities from the direct cost as much as we can, but there are no concrete answers yet.”

As for the months ahead, “no one knows how much it could cost, or who will pay,” Havel said. For now, the department has to “pay for it up front” with funds budgeted for other items.

At the federal level, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awards grants for cleanup of marine debris, but that program was created before the 2011 tsunami and is meant to deal with smaller messes.

Grants have totaled up to $1 million a year recently, NOAA spokeswoman Monica Allen told msnbc.com, but the program isn’t accepting new proposals until the fall.

Even worse for Oregon, “the program does not award grants for past work done before the award,” Allen said.

In Washington state, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday said the state has some funds set aside for tsunami debris cleanup, but it’s likely not enough. “We don’t have the resources at the state level to do what we’re going to have to do here,” she said.

Read more of this story on MSNBC.com


Miami Commission to consider Watson Island heliport, to draw tourists

Ten years have passed since the city of Miami accepted Paul Dudley’s bid to build a public heliport on Watson Island.

On Thursday, the two parties may finally ink the deal.

The city commission will consider approving a 30-year lease between the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority and Dudley’s company, New Jersey-based Linden Airport Services.

If it gets the green light, Linden will be charged with developing, building and operating a facility to be called the Watson Island Aviation and Visitors Center.

City officials envision the heliport becoming a hub of tourist activity.

“Miami is a beautiful city,” Commissioner Francis Suarez said. “You want to have a place where tourists can come, get in a helicopter, see the city, see the Everglades.”

But some critics allege the city has cut a sweetheart deal with the heliport operator, and ought to collect more in rent than the amount being proposed. The contract calls for Linden to invest $1.45 million in the infrastructure, plus pay a minimum rent of $2,200 a month or a percentage of gross revenues for the first two years. The payments increase annually.

“The amount of money we’re getting under this agreement is absurdly low,” said Nathan Kurland, a board member of the semi-autonomous Sports and Exhibition Authority, known as MSEA. “We keep talking about how the city of Miami needs money. But every time we deal with waterfront property, we deal with it like an infectious disease. We want to get rid of it as quickly and cheaply as possible.”

Miami is one of a handful of major cities without a heliport. Watson Island has had a helicopter landing pad in the past, but it hasn’t been open for several years. Most helicopters end up at Opa-locka Executive Airport or Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport.

The city of Miami first asked for bids to develop a 2.4-acre heliport facility on Watson Island in August 2002. Dudley answered the following month.

Read more of this story on The Miami Herald.

Harlem Churches See Gospel Tourist Boom on Sundays

The popularity of these gospel churches with tourists is causing friction with the faithful parishioners, who now face growing crowds.

“Gospel tourists” are descending upon Harlem churches en masse, causing friction with the faithful.

 The neighborhood’s churches have become popular tourist attractions for visitors from all over the world who want to listen to soulful gospel music at a black church service. The growing crowds are causing some problems.

Read the full story on NBC 4 New York.