July 05, 2005

Senate Approves Creation of National Tsunami Warning System

Wyden, Smith championed legislation to establish national systemto help protect at-risk Oregon coastal residents from tsunami

Washington, DC - The U.S. Senate has approved legislation sponsored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) that would allow for the development of a national tsunami warning system to protect more fully Oregon and the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the United States. Wyden and Smith joined U.S. Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and others in sponsoring the bipartisan Tsunami Preparedness Act, which was introduced earlier this year following the deadly south Asian tsunami. The legislation would authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish, operate and maintain a national tsunami warning system. On June 14, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake off the coast of northern California prompted widespread evacuations up and down the Oregon seaboard. Subsequent analysis by state emergency officials revealed gaps in the tsunami alert system necessary to provide adequate time for evacuations and the overall safety of coastal communities. "In recent weeks, Oregonians along the Pacific coast have seen up close the threat posed by tsunami to Oregon communities," said Wyden. "The legislation approved today will go a long way toward providing adequate early warning systems to keep Oregonians safe." "In order to keep our coastlines safe we need to put an effective warning system in place," said Smith. "It's essential that every preparation is made for a possible tsunami and that scientific advancements are used to ensure that a reliable warning comes before catastrophic waves." The legislation will expand the system currently in place in the Pacific Ocean. NOAA has six early warning buoys off the Pacific coast; however, only three of these are working properly. The bill would fund the placement of new sensors along the coastlines of the United States as well as support the maintenance of those currently in place. In addition, the bill directs NOAA to provide any necessary technical or other assistance to international efforts to establish regional systems in other parts of the world. The proposed legislation calls for the new global system to be in place by the end of 2007. Further, earlier this year, Wyden and Smith secured additional language to the legislation approved today that would allow Oregon State University (OSU), Oregon Health and Science University and others to compete to host a pilot project to conduct regional assessments of coastal vulnerabilities to tsunami and other coastal hazards. Oregon is a leader worldwide in research on tsunami sensing, tracking and forecasting. OSU is home to the world's largest multi-directional wave basin that allows researchers to examine the effects of earthquake-induced tidal waves.