Saturday, January 16, 2016

Tsunami Struggles in Oregon

A bit of a follow up on the now famous "toast" quote from last summer (notes-on-everything-west-of-i-5-will-be-toast).

From Chris Goldfinger  "Well the people of Seaside rejected a bond measure to move the schools, Gold Beach is putting a hospital in the tsunami zone, and OSU and OMSI are putting schools in the tsunami zone.  Really, I’m not making this up."

The student leadership that live and study at Seaside Schools apparently have a different policy view than the voters

I previously noted a policy struggle in Newport and Oregon State University (tsunami-policy-newport-Oregon). That struggle has continued ( and raises interesting policy issues. Add to this discussion the struggle Gold Beach, Oregon has with hospital planning (

In reading the articles, reviewing various planning documents and back and forth letters I have a few takes on the issue.

First, it is relatively easy to have my own specific sense of what the policy and approach should be. However, that is my own personal view. I do not live in these communities nor do I see the world the same way. Policy for planning is hard and takes time and requires lots of information and working through various values people bring with them.

Second, this issue is rather important to me from a work perspective. I am involved in geohazard work including development of regulations regarding tsunami hazards. Washington State's approach to geohazard planning is different than Oregon (a whole separate discussion).

My take on the Oregon State Science marine science center is that at least part of the center should be down by the water. The part that requires salt water tanks and direct operations involving sea water. But the bulk of the offices, conference rooms, and classrooms should be outside the zone. Those parts with large numbers of folks that are not water dependent uses should be located elsewhere.

The Gold Beach hospital issue strikes me as a planning failure. As a geohazard person it is truly awful to come in after the fact and deliver the bad news that a site where lots of effort has already taken place. Gold Beach and for that matter Seaside are really in a tough spot. But one way to look at these situations is that these communities developed where they are over a time period and it will take a long time period to move these communities to a safe place. If the State is going to weigh in on local matters, the State should be willing to assist. From a State policy perspective this makes financial sense. Having no hospital to serve Gold Beach and the county it is in will be an enormous burden when the big quake hits.

A final note. I remain struck at how well emergency planners have been doing in thinking about tsunami hazards and how poorly development planners have been doing. It explains the whole "everything will be toast west of I-5" comment.   


Lockwood said...

Like many others, I disliked that "toast" comment immensely- despite the fact it's not exactly wrong. If you look at the numbers, any given individual is unlikely to die or even be injured in the big rip. However, the disruption or destruction of vital infrastructure- utilities, hospitals, fuel depots, and on and on, mean that recovery to near normal will take years. Anything that could streamline that recovery will, in retrospect, be of great value. Emergency planners get that. Land use planners have to take realistic economic assumptions into account as well, but I often feel as if they're overemphasizing economic concerns over emergency considerations.

Dan McShane said...

Thanks for that perspective - helpful.