Tuesday, September 02, 2008

EPA report on US-Mexico border disasters misses the big ones

The US EPA's Good Neighbor Environmental Board (GNEB) published its 11th report to the President and Congress this past March (thanks to Southwest Hydrology magazine for pointing this out), covering natural disasters and their impact on a 100-km wide swath along the U.S. - Mexico border.

The emphasis of the 64 page report is on weather phenomena (floods, storms, and drought) and to a lesser extent, fires, and their impacts on wildlife and human health. Earthquakes, landslides, and mudslides merit 2 paragraphs. In the sidebar discussing earthquakes, the Imperial Valley of California and Texas' Alpine region are mentioned as sites of earthquakes felt in modern history.

No mention is made of the estimated magnitude 7.2 earthquake of 1887 in northern Sonora that rocked much of southern Arizona. If that occurred today, we'd be facing serious threats to lives and property across the region.

No mention either of the devastating debris flows of 2006 in the Coronado National Memorial near the Mexico border.

No state agencies are included as resources in the event of natural disasters. The report does note that "with the exception of one proposed plan—between the states of Arizona and its Mexican neighbor state, Sonora— no formal state-to-state agreements and plans for emergency preparedness and response exist."

The section on "Earthquake and Wildlife Specific Partnerships" describes the Border Agency Fire Council, with no mention of earthquakes.

It's hard to take serious a report with such a bold claim of subject matter and such a myopic view and limited coverage of it. I hope there are other sources of information getting to Congress and the White House about the true nature of natural disasters in the region.

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