Legislative Committee Approves Tsunami Zone Construction Standards

  Over the objections of one lawmaker and an earthquake expert, the Oregon House Committee on Natural Resources last week voted on building standards for construction of public facilities in tsunami inundation zones, according to an Associated Press story published on KATU.com,  

With little fanfare, the state legislature  last year removed a 24-year-old ban on construction of public buildings in tsunami zones. The law now allows putting public structures such as police and fire buildings in low lying coastal areas.    

The Natural Resources committee bill sets American Society of Civil Engineers recommended construction standards for such facilities. The bill passed out of committee on a 6-1 vote.   

Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale) voted against the bill.   

I don’t think that we should have ever opened up tsunami inundation zones to important infrastructure like police, fire stations and so forth,” Gorsek told the AP.  

37 Percent Chance of Disaster: Experts predict the Pacific Northwest faces a 37 percent chance in the next 50 years of a major earthquake originating in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which parallels the coast about 50 miles off shore between Northern California and Vancouver Island. Previous Cascadia earthquakes averaged 9.0 on the Richter Scale.  

Such an earthquake could  potentially send a wall of water crashing ashore in as little as 15 minutes.  The last major Cascadia earthquake occurred on Jan. 26, 1700.   

Opposing Sides: Chris Goldfinger, Oregon State University professor and earthquake geologist said most countries ban building critical structures in inundation zones.   

It’s just probably best not to put things into the tsunami zone at all, no matter how strongly they build them,” Goldfinger  told the Associated Press.   

Rep. David Gomberg (D-Lincoln City), sponsored the bill. In an email to voters he said “new science, engineering, and architecture are showing us how to construct better and safer,”  according to the AP.  

The tsunami zone building standards bill now faces a vote by the full house and state senate.   

By Larry Coonrod