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Tsunami bill sent to President Obama to be signed into law

Aftermath of the 2009 Tsunami in the village of Pago Pago that hit American Samoa as well as neighboring Samoa, causing many deaths. At the time of the disaster, American Samoa’s tsunami warning system was still on the drawing board.  [SN file photo]
Source: Media release, office of Congresswoman Aumua Amata

Washington, DC – Thursday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata, and the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Act earlier this week, which included the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2015.

“On September 29, 2009, American Samoa was struck by a tsunami that destroyed millions of dollars in property and tragically took more than 20 lives. That was a sad day which will never be forgotten, but we can do more to prevent the loss of life in the future, which is why I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and the Senate for understanding the importance of this legislation, and getting it to the President’s desk. As you know, Tsunami’s are a very serious issue for American Samoa, and something that is never far from the minds of those who call the Pacific Island’s their home. I am hopeful that this legislation will assist a great deal in helping us be better prepared when the next one strikes,” stated Amata.

Specifically, the 21st Century Act will:

  • Consolidate separate tsunami warning systems for the Pacific and Arctic Oceans and for the Atlantic Ocean into a single warning system. Requires the system to support international tsunami forecasting and warning efforts.
  • Require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to support or maintain tsunami-warning centers to support the national warning system and develop uniform operational procedures for the centers.
  • Require warning centers to utilize a range of models to predict tsunami arrival times and flooding estimates, and maintain a fail-safe warning capability and an ability to perform back-up duties for each other. Directs the centers to monitor coastal sea level monitoring stations and other data sources and evaluate landslides and volcanic eruptions that have the potential to generate tsunami.
  • Modify the tsunami hazard mitigation program to provide for: (1) technical and financial assistance; (2) the integration of tsunami preparedness and mitigation programs into resilience planning; (3) activities to support the development of regional hazard and risk assessments; and (4) dissemination of guidelines and standards for community planning, education, and training products, programs, and tools.
  • Expand the tsunami research program, including by: (1) requiring the program to develop the technical basis for validation of tsunami maps, models, and forecasts; and (2) authorizing NOAA to develop a pilot project for near-field tsunami forecast development for the west coast's Cascadia region.
  • Direct NOAA to: (1) designate an existing working group to serve as the Tsunami Science and Technology Advisory Panel to provide advice on matters regarding tsunami science, technology, and regional preparedness; (2) report on the implementation of the Tsunami Warning and Education Act; (3) develop and carry out formal outreach activities to improve tsunami education and awareness and foster the development of resilient communities; and (4) convene a coordinating committee to assist in the national tsunami hazard mitigation program.

The bill has been sent to President Barrack Obama, and it is expected to be signed into law before his term ends.

“I want to once again thank my colleagues in both the House and Senate for passing this important measure for American Samoa. I look forward to the day when our technology and response times are so good, that not another life is lost to these natural disasters… until then we must continue to do all we can to make that goal a reality, and this bill is a big step in that direction,” concluded Amata