SACRAMENTO — Concerned about the threat a tsunami could pose to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a state agency agreed Thursday to launch a study of potential risk to the busy ports in light of nearly $10 million in damage caused last year by wild, tsunami-driven currents that hit the harbor of Crescent City.
The study, which will cost the state about $50,000, is needed because a major disruption to operations at the container ports, the busiest in the country, could cost the national economy $1 billion a day, said Eddie Bernard, director of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
His agency will conduct the study in partnership with the state Seismic Safety Commission.
Bernard said the risk may prove low from tsunamis spawned by earthquakes in the ocean, but the science exists to let port officials know ahead of time whether they would be subject to water surges and damaging currents.
"I think it's clear that from a local tsunami you would have problems, but from a distant tsunami that's an unanswered question," Bernard said.