Washington State Tribes are Preparing for The Big One

Sometimes you would rather be lucky than good.

For Paul Johnson at the Washington State Office of USDA Rural Development, the national publicity coinciding with his Tsunami Tribal Summit was priceless.  His effort to bring coastal tribes together to discuss preparedness for The Big One coincided with one of America’s biggest breaking stories in the middle of July.  The July 20 story in The New Yorker, The Really Big One, preceded the event by only a few days.

The buzz about the story went viral.

“…that nonchalance will shatter instantly.  So will everything made of glass.  Anything outdoors and unsecured will lurch across the floor or come crashing down: bookshelves, lamps, computers, canisters of flour in the pantry.  Refrigerators will walk out of kitchens, unplugging themselves and tumbling over.  Water heaters will fail and smash interior gas lines.  Houses that are not bolted to their foundation will slide off—or, rather, they will stay put obeying inertia while the foundations, together with the rest of the Northwest, jolt westward.  Unmoored on the undulating ground, the homes will begin to collapse…”

The magnitude of the content combined with the precision of the prose captured the imagination of America.

What was not reported is the work that Washington state coastal Indian tribes have been conducting for years to physically relocate many of their ocean-side villages.

The July 17 event not only showcased the progress that is being made, but it brought together the key actors needed to diligently work now and in the future to mitigate the impending disaster of The Big One.

If there were ever a situation that reinforced the need for regional planning, this is it.

For Paul Johnson, he is both lucky and good.  His leadership to pull together tribes and service providers to proactively address the threat of The Big One is both timely and commendable.  It will certainly not prevent the inevitable seismic activity from happening, but if the event serves as a foreshock to inspire better, more coordinated regional planning, it could serve to both mitigate long-term consequences and to inspire medium-term community and economic development activity.