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Japanese fishermen to seek $837K payout after US jet dropped fuel tanks into lake

Petty Officer 2nd Class Mitchell Apgar dives into Lake Ogawara during cleanup efforts, March 10, 2018. An emergency forced an aircraft from nearby Misawa Air Base, Japan, to drop its fuel tanks into the lake.

DEANA HEITZMAN/U.S. AIR FORCE

By HANA KUSUMOTO | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 4, 2018

TOKYO — Fishermen in northern Japan are expected to request more than $837,000 after an American fighter jet jettisoned its fuel tanks into a lake near Misawa Air Base earlier this year.

Freshwater shellfish gathering at Lake Ogawara was shut down for a month after the tanks were dropped on Feb. 20 due to an engine fire on an F-16 assigned to the 35th Fighter Wing. The aircraft landed safely and there were no injuries.

One hundred and eighty fishermen in a local association are expected to seek a payout from the U.S. and Japanese governments for losses suffered during the shutdown, which happened during the peak season for freshwater shellfish, a Tohoku Defense Bureau spokesman said on Tuesday.

Japanese officials will review any claim and hold talks with U.S. counterparts, he said. The status of forces agreement that governs U.S. forces in Japan says the U.S. and Japan will each pay a portion of any compensation caused during official duty. Testing conducted March 8-13 showed no fuel from the tanks in the lake, although detection efforts continue, an Air Force statement said.

“We are committed to performing our mission in an environmentally responsible manner, and we will continue to work with the local community to ensure Lake Ogawara remains safe for fishing and other endeavors,” then-35th Fighter Wing commander Col. Scott Jobe said in the statement.

kusumoto.hana@stripes.com

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