March 10, 2005

Wyden, Smith Work To Allow Oregon Universities To Compete For New Tsunami Programs

Bipartisan legislation approved by Senate Commerce Committee includes provision that would allow Oregon universities to compete to house one of three regional tsunami threat assessment projects

Washington, DC Oregon universities could have the chance to compete to host a pilot project to conduct regional assessments of coastal vulnerabilities to tsunami and other coastal hazards under a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and approved by the Senate Commerce Committee today. The provision allowing for university competition to host one of three pilot projects is included in the bipartisan Tsunami Preparedness Act, which would authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish, operate and maintain a national tsunami warning system. Wyden and Smith worked with Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), Oregon State University (OSU) and others to help make it possible for the universities to compete for the funding and development of the pilot projects.Oregon universities have long been pioneers in the cutting-edge research on tsunami and the coastal landscape, said Wyden. This legislation raises the potential for this research to be put to good practical use for the benefit of Oregonians and all Americans living near both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.The discoveries made in Oregon universities will help save lives the next time these catastrophic waves threaten the worlds coastlines, Smith said.As outlined in the legislation, the criteria for being selected to host a regional assessment project are:" Vulnerability to tsunami, hurricanes, extreme weather, flooding and other coastal hazards;" Dependence on economic sectors and natural resources that are particularly sensitive to coastal hazards;" Opportunities to link and leverage related regional risk observation, research, forecasting, assessment, educational and risk assessment programs;" Demonstration of strong interagency collaboration in the area of risk management; and" Access to NOAA and other Federal agency programs, facilities and infrastructure related to tsunami and other coastal hazards monitoring.The selected project hosts will be tasked with assessing risk to coastal areas of the United States of tsunami and other coastal hazards, including sea level rise, increases in severe weather events and climate change.The Pacific Northwest, and particularly Oregons 363 miles of coastline, is a region critically susceptible to tsunami. The Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) off the Oregon and Washington coasts has a history of large earthquakes, which can cause deadly tsunami similar in magnitude to the one in the Indian Ocean in December 2004.Oregon is a worldwide leader in research on tsunami sensing, tracking and forecasting. For example, OSU is home to the worlds largest multi-directional wave basin that allows researchers to examine the effects of earthquake-induced tidal waves.The bill now goes to the full Senate for its consideration.