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Japanese fishermen to seek $837,000 payout after US jet dropped fuel tanks into lake

U.S. and Japanese servicemembers work together to clean up Lake Ogawara near Misawa Air Base, Japan, earlier this month after an F-16 jettisoned its fuel tanks because of an emergency. (JARROD VICKERS/U.S. AIR FORCE)

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.

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