A team including U.S. Department of Homeland Security risk advisers is coming to the Port of Astoria in April to assess how ready the agency is to help the region recover after a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.
Patrick Massey, regional director of Homeland Security’s Cyber & Infrastructure Security Agency, said the visit is part of an effort requested by Gov. Kate Brown’s office to look at how seaports, airports and some railroads on the Oregon Coast will perform after a large earthquake.
“The government needs to be able to bring in a lot of resources,” Massey said. “What are going to be the best means to move those disaster relief supplies? The general working assumption is that air and sea will play a bigger role than ground transport.”
The team will also include researchers with the science and engineering-focused Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, as well as representatives from the state Office of Emergency Management and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Transportation Command, the federal agency charged with ensuring viable infrastructure for military operations.
The team will assemble a report with some ideas for the state to improve readiness, Massey said.
Mary McArthur, the executive director of the Columbia-Pacific Economic Development District, has been creating a strategic plan the Port needs to get more state financing to help fix crumbling infrastructure. The visit by the feds could potentially lead to federal support for disaster preparedness, with the Port as a hub of recovery at the mouth of the Columbia River.
“In talking to Business Oregon, their sense is that Pier 1 is probably the strongest of the piers,” she told the Port Commission earlier this month. “They think that, potentially, it could withstand the earthquake. Whether or not it would be ripped apart if the wave came up the river and just lifted it off the bank, that’s another issue. But there is value, potentially, in access to federal dollars.”
The Port has been largely absent from emergency planning in Clatsop County.
Jim Knight, the Port’s executive director, sees the visit as an example of how important federal agencies think the Port is in recovering from a large earthquake, and as a potential route to federal support. The Port has been trying to get a large amount of disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damage claims from December 2015 storms.
“We’re the cornerstone,” Knight told the Port Commission earlier this month. “We are the connection north and south and east and west. That’s why they’ve identified the Port as being critical.
“Whether that turns into money to prepare … it’s a step in the right direction, but that’s unknown, how much money we’ll be able to get from Homeland Security.”