GEARHART — The City Council unanimously approved a tsunami hazard overlay zone to help prepare for a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami.

The city’s decision comes after the state Legislature overturned a 1995 prohibition on constructing new public facilities within the tsunami zone.

The designation, adopted on Wednesday, will address future zoning decisions and reflect the community’s risk tolerance and its application of mitigation measures, according to a city staff report.

Projects that have been discussed include new evacuation route signs, evacuation towers, new evacuation maps and emergency supply storage.

At the state level, a new law lifted restrictions on new public buildings in tsunami zones. Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill into law in June, adding in a signing letter that “House Bill 3309 restores much needed flexibility, while ensuring that our coast communities remain safe.”

“It’s really our local rule,” Gearhart City Attorney Peter Watts said. “I’m not sure why that law was passed. It seems counter to everything you’ve been doing, but I’m sure there’s some story somewhere.”

Gearhart’s new rules come with “exceptions built into it” and will not impact the decision of where to place a new fire station, should voters approve a bond to finance the project, City Administrator Chad Sweet said.

“We’re doing our best to place it in the place that’s best,” he said.

R.J. Marx is editor of the Seaside Signal and covers South County for The Astorian. Reach him at 971-320-4557 or

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