February 01, 2005

Wyden, Smith Support Development of Tsunami Warning System

Proposed national system would help protect particularly at-risk Oregon coastal residents from tsunamis

Washington, DC - In the wake of the deadly tsunami in Southeast Asia, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) today took a step toward the development of a national tsunami warning system to more fully protect Oregon and the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the United States. Wyden and Smith joined with Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and others in sponsoring the bipartisan "Tsunami Preparedness Act." The legislation would authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish, operate and maintain a national tsunami warning system. "The south Asian tsunami showed in very stark terms the extreme devastation one of these massive waves could inflict on the Oregon coast were it to strike with no warning," said Wyden. "This legislation will help put in place early warning systems that could save thousands of lives." "The recent tsunami disastrously affected millions of lives," Smith said. "Implementing measures for tsunami preparedness is a priority worldwide and the United States can lead the way with the passage of this bill." The warning system proposed in the legislation would expand the systems 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 and there are no other systems in place. 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 would direct 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 system to be in place by the end of 2007. Oregon is a leader worldwide in research on tsunami sensing, tracking and forecasting. Oregon State University is home to the world's largest multi-directional wave basin that allows researchers to examine the effects of earthquake-induced tidal waves. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.