FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 6, 2012
Goldmark Questions NOAA’s Proposed Tsunami Program Cuts
Tsunami preparedness for coastal communities would be threatened
OLYMPIA – Budget reductions proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would halt progress toward making local communities safer from tsunami hazards. As the one-year anniversary of the devastating tsunami in Japan approaches, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark raised these concerns in a letter to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco today, as her agency gave budget testimony before the U.S. House Committees on Natural Resources and Science and Technology.
“Agencies at all levels are reducing spending in these difficult times, but public safety must always be the first priority of government,” said Commissioner Goldmark. “I am concerned that NOAA’s proposed cuts will ultimately leave our communities less prepared for an inevitable natural disaster.”
In its Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal, NOAA would cut $4.6 million from the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. These funds support the maintenance of early-warning buoys for tsunami alerts, as well as state and local governments’ work to identify and prepare communities for likely tsunami impacts. NOAA gave testimony before the Congressional committees today regarding the cuts.
Through the Tsunami Warning and Education Act (TWEA), NOAA has partnered with state and local officials to complete preliminary hazard evaluations on many of Washington’s coastal and Puget Sound communities. TWEA passed in 2006, with support from many members of Washington State’s congressional delegation. The law was designed to improve preparedness following the disastrous Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004 that killed at least 230,000 people.
Work under TWEA has helped initiate crucial public education and signage for tsunami evacuation routes, conduct evacuation drills, and create computer modeling that identifies areas likely to see the worst inundation when tsunamis come ashore.
“Progress since TWEA’s passage has been remarkable, but community preparedness requires an ongoing commitment,” Goldmark said. He points out that, while improvements have been achieved on addressing risks from tsunamis that originate far away, much more needs to be done to guard against local tsunamis. An earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone that lies just off Washington’s Coast could produce a tsunami that reaches shore in only 30 minutes.
Recently, scientists studying the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami have suggested that similar events in the Northwest might be more severe than originally estimated. Incorporating this kind of new scientific information, along with improved computer models for tsunami impacts, is further evidence of the need to sustain preparedness efforts.
The direct link to a copy of Commissioner Goldmark’s letter to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco is: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/em_noaa_ltr.pdf
About the Washington State Department of Natural Resources
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) includes the office of the State Geologist, which is responsible for monitoring, assessing, and researching the causes of earthquakes and related seismic and geologic hazards. DNR partners with other state and federal agencies on tsunami impact assessments and preparedness.
Media Contact: Bob Redling, Senior Communications Manager, 360-902-1149, firstname.lastname@example.org
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