The Oregon legislature has repealed a ban on construction of new critical facilities in tsunami inundation zones.
The action now allows fire stations, police stations, and schools to be built where tidal waves caused by offshore earthquakes could strike the coast.
An Oregon State University professor and an earthquake geologist argued that building in a tsunami zone is a foolhardy strategy with the potential for waves to reach seven stories in height.
But officials in coastal communities countered that placing an outright ban on new facilities creates a hardship that could stifle development.
A new facility being built by the University of Oregon in a tsunami zone demonstrates the lengths designers have to go to in order to make buildings able to withstand strong earthquakes and the biggest tsunamis. The building will feature a rooftop evacuation site that can accommodate more than 900 people.
The neighboring states of Washington and California have beefed up building codes in recent years to address the threat of tsunamis. Washington requires municipalities and counties to establish rules to limit development in areas that are frequently flooded or could be hit by tsunamis. California does not restrict development in tsunami zones, but it recently amended its building code to require that certain types of buildings be constructed to withstand tsunamis.