Lawmakers host hearing on Oregon earthquake plan

Of the Associated Press

SALEM — A legislative committee heard testimony Thursday on a plan to make Oregon's coastal towns more resilient in the event of a monster earthquake and tsunami projected to strike off the Pacific Northwest coast.

The House and Senate committees that oversee emergency preparedness hosted an informational hearing on recommendations for preparing towns from Astoria to Gold Beach for such large-scale natural disasters.

“They've got the most to lose in terms of lives and will have the hardest recovery,” Jay Wilson, a Clackamas County hazard mitigation coordinator, told lawmakers. Wilson is the vice chairman of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission, which prepared the report.

Wilson said approximately 22,000 people living along the coast will be permanently displaced within 30 minutes of the earthquake. He said by starting the process now and retrofitting buildings to be earthquake resilient, for example, the towns will be much more prepared when disaster strikes.

Seismic experts say the Cascadia Subduction Zone, just off the regional coastline, is overdue to produce a mega-quake and tsunami. The last time it ruptured was in the year 1700.

The seismic safety commission was created by the 2011 Legislature to study what would happen if a quake and tsunami like those that devastated Japan that year hit the Pacific Northwest.

In February, researchers unveiled a comprehensive report called The Oregon Resilience Plan that found that more than 10,000 people could die if an earthquake and tsunami were to occur off the Pacific Northwest coast today.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would designate a task force to come up with a strategy for implementing the resilience plan. The task force would be made up of lawmakers, representatives from the business and nonprofit sector and scientists, among others. The measure is pending in the Ways and Means Committee.

Additionally, the report called for establishing a State Resilience Office to oversee the implementation of the plan. Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, said lawmakers are considering the proposal.

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