Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) announced their tsunami detection and warning systems legislation unanimously passed the Senate. The bill reauthorizes and enhances tsunami preparedness and increases investment in research to protect coastal communities.
“Our bill strengthens the national tsunami forecasting program and stabilizes funding available for tsunami warnings and preparedness. It also gives communities the ability to focus on the particular risks they face. In Hawai‘i, that means securing our ports, preparing for the specific impacts to areas with a concentration of high rise buildings, like Waikiki, and looking to Hawai‘i’s geological past to identify possible tsunami threats in the future,” said Senator Schatz. “The earthquake in Chile last month underlines the importance of strengthening tsunami forecasting and preparedness for Hawai‘i.”
“With more than 300,000 Washingtonians living along the Cascadia fault in a tsunami danger zone, we must prepare our coastal communities for future tsunamis,” said Senator Cantwell. “The legislation improves our emergency warning infrastructure, provides funding to our state-based emergency management programs, and bolsters readiness assessments for coastal areas at-risk.”
“In the tradition of Senators Ted Stevens and Dan Inouye, I am pleased to see this bill unanimously pass the Senate,” said Senator Sullivan. “In the event of the next tsunami, adequate warning for Alaska’s coastal communities is essential. This legislation will ensure that important monitoring centers, vital research advancements and community based mitigation programs continue in a cost effective manner.”
The Tsunami Warning and Research Education Act of 2015 also reauthorizes the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, which provides funding to coastal states for preparedness activities such as inundation mapping, disaster planning, and tsunami education. Because of these funds, Hawai‘i became one of the first states in the nation to be declared Tsunami Ready. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Schatz is fighting to maintain funding for the program in this year’s Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill, which the President proposed cutting in his budget.
The Tsunami Warning, Education and Research Act of 2015 would:
- Advance new research related to improving tsunami detection, forecasting, notification and response;
- Ensure supercomputing resources are available for tsunami forecast models and that guidelines and metrics for evaluating and improving tsunami models are disseminated;
- Add language to cover research, forecasting, and preparedness based on data from the geological record to assess tsunami threats—like the mega-tsunami that scientists believe struck Kauai about 500 years ago from the Aleutian Islands to the north;
- Authorize NOAA to put tsunami sensors onto commercial and federal telecommunications cables as a cost-effective way to improve the tsunami detection network;
- Authorize studies on how tsunami currents might affect the stability of clustered high-rise buildings, such as Hawai‘i’s iconic Waikiki skyline;
- Authorize public-private partnerships for resilience, so that communities can form 501(c)(3) non-profits to accept non-governmental dollars to support tsunami resilience;
- Require tsunami forecasts to support preparedness and response for port and harbor operations, and authorize the evaluation of at-risk ports and harbors, including a review of procedures for preparing, responding, and communicating with the public.