June 17 2021
10:48 PM
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Previous story Officials: A dam in Oregon could fail in a large earthquake Next story
  catastrophy   Earthquake Danger  

Story by ANDREW SELSKY - Story Source
Published on Wednesday March 17, 2021 - 4:47 AM
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SALEM, Ore. — (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that a large earthquake — which is expected to occur again in the Pacific Northwest sooner or later — could cause the spillway gates of a dam in Oregon to buckle, resulting "in a potentially catastrophic flood."

The Corps announced late Monday it will try to minimize the danger by reducing the maximum height of the lake by five feet starting in April. Hundreds of thousands of people, including those in the state capital, live downstream from the Detroit Dam, whose construction in the 1950s created the narrow, nine-mile long Detroit Lake.

The move comes as Oregon and the wider Pacific Northwest are coming to grips with "the big one" that experts say is coming. Earthquakes in the Cascadia subduction zone, which extends from the ocean off Northern California to Canada's Vancouver Island, have an average magnitude of around 9, making them among the world's biggest.

A quake in that zone has a 37% probability of happening off Oregon's coast in the next 50 years, according to Chris Goldfinger, an Oregon State University professor and earthquake geologist.

Just last week, an earthquake early warning system was launched in Oregon. Operated by the U.S. Geological Survey, the state joined California in the system that sends alerts to smart phones. Washington state is expected to join the ShakeAlert system, which operates on an array of seismic sensors, in May.

"When a Cascadia event happens, the critical seconds of notice ShakeAlert warnings provide will save lives and reduce damage to important lifeline systems," Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the day it launched, on Thursday.

Lawmakers are also trying to prepare the state for a major earthquake.

In the Oregon Legislature, House Bill 3083 mandates that contracts for public works must adhere to seismic safety standards and seismic rehabilitation standards in constructing or renovating public building or critical infrastructure in earthquake-prone areas. A House committee has a work session scheduled for the bill on April 1.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has already raised concerns about the bill, saying "there is simply not sufficient funding to fully armor the entire transportation system in a reasonable timeframe."