A tsunami preparedness strategy for the Port of Bellingham
Port of Bellingham gets tsunami preparedness advice from state in first-of-its-kind strategy
The Washington Emergency Management Division has completed a Tsunami Maritime Response and Mitigation Strategy for the Port of Bellingham to help the region better prepare for a potential tsunami.
It’s the first maritime strategy developed for the state of Washington, but not the last. Next up: Grays Harbor’s Westport Marina.
“Tsunamis are a risk for all of the coastal communities in Washington State, including our vulnerable port and marina facilities located along the shoreline,” said Maximilian Dixon, the geologic hazards supervisor for the Washington Emergency Management Division. “These facilities are central to the maritime community and are an integral part of the Washington economy.”
“It is an honor to be the first jurisdiction chosen to work through development of this strategy with our state’s Emergency Management Division, Geologic Survey and SeaGrant,” said Kurt Baumgarten, environmental planner for the Port of Bellingham. “The Port looks forward to applying the guidance to our tsunami preparation and planning efforts.”
The Tsunami Maritime Response and Mitigation Strategy for the Port of Bellingham was built upon established maritime guidance from the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) that has been used to create maritime strategies in California, Oregon and Alaska. This strategy will be used as a template to create strategies for other ports and marinas across the state, which will help them reduce their tsunami risk.
“We hope this strategy will help the maritime communities in Washington more fully understand the tsunami risk they face and assist them in their tsunami planning efforts,” Dixon said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce provided funding to the Washington Emergency Management Division to work with ports and regional partners on tsunami preparedness activities.
Among the most vulnerable facilities to tsunami impacts are ports and marinas, which are often built on land created from dredged soil and are thus susceptible to liquefaction in addition to tsunami impacts, notes state Tsunami Program Coordinator Jacob Witcraft, who helped write the report and oversaw many discussions with partners. Ports are a vital component of the maritime industry, which is comprised of key infrastructure for transportation, travel and commerce, Witcraft says.
The ability of ports to withstand a disaster and resume operations quickly will be a major factor in the recovery of the local community and economy in the short and long term. Contained within the strategy are specific actions that the maritime community can take to reduce their risk before a tsunami occurs and protect themselves during a tsunami. This guidance is intended for small craft (vessels under 300 gross tons) such as recreational sailing and motor vessels, and commercial fishing vessels.
Witcraft notes the modeling was completed by the University of Washington and the Washington SeaGrant. The Washington Geological Survey produced a suite of Port of Bellingham-focused maps and graphics for the project including a modeled minimum water depth map, a first for the inner coast of Washington.
Measures can be undertaken to improve response capability and mitigate the risk as much as possible, Witcraft says. These response and mitigation actions can help save lives, make the Port more resilient and reduce the time it takes for the Port to recover, thus restoring an integral part of the maritime infrastructure and economy. They can also enhance the Port’s resiliency to more frequent hazards such as extreme storm events, unusually high tides and floods.
The maritime industry in Washington is a $21.6 billion industry contributing directly and indirectly to 146,000 jobs and $30 billion in economic activity.