The Newport City Council Monday night took the first step toward preparing the big hill south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge to be a refuge for hundreds, if not thousands of South Beach residents, workers and business people wanting to save themselves from an earthquake-caused tsunami. If it’s generated by the long-predicted Cascadia earthquake, people would have a scant 15 minutes to get to the top of the hill to avoid the tsunami that would be roaring ashore.
The council told Community Development Director Derrick Tokos to negotiate with ODOT for permits to begin making improvements. In order to make pedestrian access to the hill as fast and as easy as possible, the city wants to improve the north side trail that goes from sea level to the top. Also by improving the gravel road at the south side of the hill that winds its way to the top. Flattening the summit will also be a necessary first-step in order for the hill to accommodate a great mass of people.
Once Newport obtains permits from ODOT, work will proceed. However, the work will be just enough to make access easier from the north and south ends along with the hilltop being partially cleared and leveled. The entire job and range of improvements will await FEMA funding which covers 75% of the total cost of the project. City staff says whatever costs the city covers before the FEMA grant is awarded will be costs not reimbursed by FEMA.
Tokos told the council that state geologists have updated the tsunami maps that show which specific areas along the coast are tsunami inundation zones. The new map shows that the zones are noticeably larger than indicated on current maps. The new maps will be released within the next few weeks.