Plan for new OSU facility in tsunami zone being questions by local leaders, professors

University president Ed Ray believes the new facility can be built to sustain a 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that follows. He hopes to become an example to the world in doing so.

There's a growing number of people who think the university is crossing a line they should not cross, though.

No one will soon forget the devastating images from Japan in 2011, moments after one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in the country's history brought down cities in seconds. The massive 40-foot tsunami that arose in its shadow demolished what was left.

"In my mind, we need to really approach this as the worst case could happen," Chairman of Oregon's Seismic and Safety Commission Jay Wilson said.

State leaders say they are trying to learn from what happened to Japan so they can prepare and protect Oregon's coastline for when the big one hits here.

Part of that is encouraging coastal developers to build outside of a newly identified tsunami inundation zone, which is why Wilson tells FOX 12 he was dumbfounded by what Oregon State University is trying to do.

 "We have a standard grant program in the state where any given school has to go through all of these hoops to get a million dollars and they're excluded from doing anything in a tsunami zone," Wilson said. "And, here the legislature gave $25 million in bonds to put a school in a tsunami zone without there even being a plan in place."

Ray wants to construct a new Marine Studies Initiative building at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, in part with state funding.

So, Wilson wrote a letter to Governor Kate Brown questioning the OSU project, and once Oregon State University geologists and geophysics professors got wind of what was going on, they too tried to get administrators to think twice.

"Frankly there's nobody in the world, not at OSU or anyone, who has experience of building a school in a tsunami zone. It's simply not done," OSU marine geologist Chris Goldfinger said. "The idea that they're going to show the world and showcase how it's done, I think is foolish."

Goldfinger was one of 23 professors who wrote and signed a letter to President Ray. Read more...