AP NEWS

Oregon Legislature repeals tsunami zone building law

June 24, 2019 GMT

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Legislature has repealed a nearly 25-year-old law prohibiting new schools, hospitals, jails, and police and fire stations from being built in the state’s tsunami inundation zone.

The Statesman Journal reports that coastal legislators, who pushed the bill, say the risks of a natural disaster must be weighed against an actual economic disaster already unfolding because of the statute.

Rep. David Gomberg, a Democrat from Otis, said without new emergency services buildings, coastal residents and businesses will not be able to get property insurance and without new schools, property values will fall.

“We regard this as having extreme and significant consequences,” Gomberg said.

Oregon has a 30 percent chance of experiencing a 9.0-magnitude-plus Cascadia subduction zone earthquake in the next 50 years. The quake would be followed by a tsunami similar to the one that devastated eastern Japan in 2011.

The 1995 ban on building in the tsunami zone doesn’t apply to homes or private development.

Oregon emergency managers say essential services should be located above the inundation zone to be able to respond to a disaster rather being destroyed by one.

But the coastal legislators say residents and visitors know and accept the risks and consequences of tsunamis.

“You don’t stop construction in the middle of the Oklahoma panhandle because of tornadoes. People rebuild,” Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, said. “People understand that. They’re all about embracing the fact that they live on the coast.”

Gov. Kate Brown has not decided whether she will sign the bill, HB 3309, her spokeswoman Kate Kondayen said.