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Suzanne B.
Democrat OR 1

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  • Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2015

    by Representative Suzanne Bonamici

    Posted on 2015-01-07

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    BONAMICI. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 34, the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2015.

    I want to thank Mr. Rohrabacher for working with me to advance this bipartisan legislation. I also thank the chairman and ranking member of the Science Committee, Mr. Smith and Ms. Johnson, for their support in making this bill an early priority in the 114th Congress. I would also like to thank the State and local emergency management officials, coastal zone managers, and the many scientists and other experts who lent their expertise and experience to the development of this bill. Coastal community groups and emergency planners in my district are working hard to prepare their communities for earthquake and tsunami events, and I am grateful that they took some time to provide their input on this legislation.

    Last month marked the 10th anniversary of the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake in Southeast Asia. That earthquake triggered a tsunami event that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people from Indonesia to Madagascar. Following that tragic event, Congress enacted the Tsunami Warning and Education Act to begin preparing our communities for the considerable threat posed by such an event. We were again reminded of the severe dangers that a tsunami represents for our coastal communities almost 4 years ago when the Tohoku earthquake near Japan created a devastating tsunami that resulted in the tragic loss of human lives and billions of dollars in economic damage, damage that reached as far as the west coast of the United States.

    The events in Indonesia and Japan underscore the importance of this legislation, which reauthorizes and extends U.S. efforts to prepare and protect our coastal communities from similar events.

    Our ability to prepare, respond to, and recover from a tsunami depends in large part on the hard work done at the local level. The Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act will support local efforts, and it is an important step toward making sure our constituents are ready to face the dangers posed by tsunami threats.

    [[Page H91]] Maritime commerce, vibrant tourism, and more than 120 million Americans are all part of the rich coastal U.S. economy, an economy that contributes significantly to the U.S. GDP. The commercial fishing industry alone supports about 1 million jobs, and the international trade associated with coastal and marine fisheries contributes close to $70 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Ensuring that coastal communities, big and small, have the resources and knowledge necessary to protect these critical assets from the threat of tsunami and be prepared should it occur is simply good and prudent policy.

    My coastal constituents are keenly aware of the threat that a tsunami poses to their communities, and cities up and down coasts have responded by installing warning sirens and developing evacuation routes. But as we learn more about which areas will be hardest hit and which technologies can provide the most accurate warning, a coordinated effort is required to update preparation and response.

    In Tillamook County, Oregon, for example, just outside my district, they recently decided they are going to be using social media and phones to warn residents. Seaside, a small coastal town in my district, has been identified as the most vulnerable community to tsunami on the Oregon coast, and local leaders and organizations there are proactively educating residents and visitors about tsunami evacuation routes, storage supply locations, and emergency communication systems.

    At the Federal level, we must do our part to help communities understand the risks and seriousness of the threats they face, and work with them to be prepared, which is why I sponsored this bill along with my colleague from California (Mr. Rohrabacher).

    In Oregon, we know that a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami will occur some day in the Cascadia subduction zone. The question is not a matter of if, but when. Although no one can predict when the Cascadia fault will rupture, we can and we must prepare.

    This legislation will help to ensure that local and regional decision-makers have the tools and information they need to develop mitigation and response plans to this ever present threat, and to communicate these plans to the public in an effective and efficient manner.

    For distant tsunami events, this bill will advance research efforts related to improving forecasting, detection, and notification. It adds port and harbor operations as entities to be safeguarded by tsunami forecasting capabilities.

    {time} 1430 This bill will also support research needed to improve our understanding of local tsunami events. A local tsunami--one that is generated just off the coast--has a travel time of less than 30 minutes. This is the kind of tsunami most likely to have widespread and devastating impacts on the U.S. coast and on the Caribbean.

    In the 10 years since tragedy struck in the Indian Ocean region, we have made significant strides in our understanding of how to prepare for, mitigate, and respond to a tsunami.

    I have no doubt that the progress we have made, in large part through NOAA's efforts under the Tsunami Warning and Education Act, has enhanced the safety of our community and has the potential to save lives. This good work must be continued, and our bipartisan bill will provide ongoing assistance to protect our coastal communities from the impact of a tsunami.

    With that, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bipartisan legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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