A bill that would strengthen tsunami warning systems along the Pacific Northwest coast cleared the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee last week with bipartisan support. It deserves congressional approval and should be signed into law.
The legislation, called the Tsunami Warning, Education and Research Act of 2015, was introduced in Congress by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. She is a longtime supporter of more research and better warning and prediction systems to protect coastal populations from the devastating effects of earthquake-induced tidal waves.
The 2015 legislation complements a 2006 act of Congress pushed by Cantwell that improved tsunami evacuation routes, updated hazard maps, and increased the number of ocean warning buoys worldwide.
The state’s coastal economy supports some 165,000 jobs and generates some $30 billion in economic activity each year. Across the country, some 120 million people live on or near coastlines.
The 2015 legislation would ensure resources are available to improve tsunami forecasting computer models, and require tsunami warning centers to work with local weather forecasters to guarantee timely delivery of warnings.
The bill also directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine the readiness of first responders in high-risk areas, which include the Pacific Northwest Cascadia subduction zone. The subduction zone is a fault line prone to mega-earthquakes every few hundred years. The last big Cascadia fault earthquake occurred in 1700. There is some scientific evidence that tension is building along the fault line.
Early detection and warning and effective emergency response are critical to saving lives. This bill advances that cause.