Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Land-use rules suggested for vulnerable coastal areas

A new report says California's buildings are much less prepared for tsunamis than for other natural disasters and calls for future land use planning in coastal communities to be based on the latest knowledge of tsunami threats.

The report was put together by the California Tsunami Policy Working Group, which included Del Norte County engineer Jim Barnts along with experts in earth science, flood hazard, structural and coastal engineering, and local and regional planning.

The group considered the latest science to identify roadblocks to tsunami hazard mitigation and develop practical solutions.

"Crescent City has historically been hit by both local and distant tsunamis," said a statement by Barnts, former director of the Crescent City Public Works Department. "With these policy recommendations in place, based upon solid science and risk-based land use and construction practices, Crescent City will have a firm foundation upon which to make decisions to protect property and save lives."

The report asks that the state establish tsunami hazard zones subject to tsunami-resilient design and construction codes. It also says the state should legislate financial incentives for coastal communities to adopt land use policy consistent with those zones.

California's understanding of tsunami risks is relatively new compared to other natural disasters, but its vulnerability is extensive, according to the report released Monday.

"More than a quarter of a million Californians, over 15,000 businesses, and hundreds of billions of dollars in buildings, infrastructure, port, maritime, agriculture and other assets in the state are at risk of tsunami inundation every day," said a press release for the report.

Crescent City is on the state's short list for having the highest percentage of developed land exposed to tsunami inundation and the high percentage of its workforce in the tsunami flood zone.

The report also calls for streamlined dredge permitting, noting that delays in the removal of sediment from Crescent City Harbor after the 2011 tsunami had a negative impact on the local fishing economy.

The report says that the new scientific understanding of earthquake potential on the Pacific Rim "assures us that much larger tsunamis that are much more capable of causing serious damage to today's heavily-developed coastline, will occur in the future - although it is uncertain when. Nonetheless, the time to prepare is now."

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