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Senate Unanimously Passes Tsunami Act

Posted October 7, 2015, 01:26 PM HST
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United States Senator Brian Schatz. U.S. Senate photo.

The Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2015, introduced by United States Senators Brian Schatz, Maria Cantwell, and Dan Sullivan, has unanimously passed the Senate.

Senator Schatz made the announcement Wednesday, noting that the passed Act will strengthen the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s tsunami warning system and advance new research that could improve tsunami detection, forecasting, notification, and response.

“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.”

Under the Act, the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program is also reauthorized. The program provides funding to coastal states for preparedness activities like inundation mapping, disaster planning, and tsunami education.

The funds from the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program have provided Hawai’i the opportunity to become one of the first states in the country to be declared “Tsunami Ready.”

Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says he will fight to keep funding for the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program alive in the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill. The bill had been proposed to be cut in the President’s business.

The Tsunami Warning, Education and Research Act of 2015 would:

Advance new research related to improving tsunami detection, forecasting, notification, and response.

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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.

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