Thank you for your recent editorial and your obvious concern for our safety and future here along the Oregon Coast.
A recent New Yorker article, “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” (https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/oregons-tsunami-risk-between-the-devil-and-the-deep-blue-sea), raised questions about House Bill 3309, which passed the House 56-4 and the Senate 28-1. The measure lifted the prohibition on new facilities within the tsunami inundation zone.
I wanted to offer a few additional details to this important discussion.
• Under the old statute, state grants and funding were not available within the inundation zone to retrofit or even relocate public facilities. (http://www.orinfrastructure.org/Infrastructure-Programs/Seismic-Rehab/).
• New technology and engineering is allowing design of buildings that will withstand the tsunami. (https://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/tsunami-preparedness). Should we be prohibited from considering them if we are willing to incur the cost?
• I sponsored legislation (HB 2229) to require earthquake and tsunami preparation education in our public schools.
• Limited by urban growth boundaries and caught between the ocean and the coastal hills filled with landslide faults, we have no place to move to.
In short, we are not looking to build new schools in the tsunami zone. Rather, we want to strengthen or move schools, hospitals, police and fire stations, which is more difficult under the old statute.
HB 3309 was focused on the regulatory authority of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI), which has no regulatory resources. The change allows it to focus on helping collect the best information and then advise and mitigate the risks. The bill will not mandate new construction in dangerous areas.
California and Washington have adopted the American Society of Civil Engineers standards which for the first time include guidance on building within tsunami inundation zones. Ultimately, we are moving in the direction of the ASCE 7-16 building code. That’s going to be an ongoing conversation through the interim and into future sessions.
The central question is, with a one-third chance of a major event, do we abandon the coast, or do we prepare? For most people here, their life savings and life debt are centered in their homes. Do we bankrupt people and tell them to walk away?
I also encourage you to look at our statewide planning goals which now prohibit any new development in the “earthquake” zone. I believe that would be the entire western third of the state — including Corvallis.
We need to get serious about earthquake and tsunami planning. That means deciding what we are going to do, rather than saying “don’t do anything."