Governor Brown Requests Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to Help Tsunami Recovery Efforts in California


SACRAMENTO – In a letter to President Barack Obama, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. today requested a Presidential major disaster declaration for the state following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan, which generated a water surge that caused over $48 million in damage to California ports, harbors, boats, businesses and infrastructure.

Governor Brown’s letter asks for additional federal resources to supplement state and local repair and recovery efforts .

Today’s request follows emergency proclamations issued by Governor Brown for Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties and an Executive Order issued to waive the waiting period for victims to apply for unemployment insurance, expedite the hiring of emergency and cleanup personnel and request state tax officials to accommodate those affected by the water surge.

The full text of the letter is below.

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500


Ms. Nancy Ward
Regional Administrator, Region IX
Federal Emergency Management Agency
1111 Broadway, Suite 1200
Oakland, CA 94607-4052

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to ask you to declare a major disaster for the State of California for damages sustained to coastal communities from the March 10 tsunami caused by the 9.0 earthquake off the eastern coast of Japan. This request is made under Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§5121-5206, and implemented by 44 CFR §206.36.

The tsunami’s water surge along the California coastline destroyed public and private property, loosened boats from moorings, sank vessels, damaged docks and pilings, forced an accumulation of debris in harbors, caused fuel to be discharged in marinas, and destroyed or damaged local businesses. The water surge required extensive emergency response and clean-up. Emergency shelters were opened and thousands of residents were evacuated from their homes. The six California counties significantly impacted by the water surge include Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz.

In response to the tsunami, I executed California’s State Emergency Plan and directed the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) to activate the State Operations Center and its Coastal Regional Emergency Operations Center, which coordinated response efforts. State disaster response and recovery staff were immediately assigned and deployed to the disaster areas to assist local officials, and other state agencies, and to conduct daily aerial surveys along the California coastline to locate damaged vessels and to identify pollution impacts.

On March 11, 2011, I declared a state of emergency for Del Norte, Humboldt, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties, and on March 16, 2011, I declared a state of emergency for Mendocino and San Luis Obispo counties. On March 18, 2011, I issued an executive order waiving the waiting period for victims to apply for unemployment insurance, expediting the hiring of emergency and cleanup personnel, and requesting state tax officials to accommodate those affected by the water surge.

Two days later, a joint federal, state, and local survey of the damaged areas was requested. Preliminary assessments indicate the most severe impacts are to private and public property including infrastructure, boats, and businesses. The two hardest hit counties are Del Norte and Santa Cruz, with per capita damages estimated at $754.02 and $104.06, respectively—both far exceeding FEMA’s established per capita county impact indicator of $3.27. The Crescent City Harbor, which last year generated crab and fish revenues of $12.5 million, sustained an estimated $19.9 million in eligible damage, and the Santa Cruz Port sustained an estimated $26.4 million in eligible damage. The Santa Cruz Port District, whose businesses employ approximately 800 people, operates as a government-owned business, funded entirely by user fees and generates approximately $16.8 million annually for Santa Cruz County. The port district has reported that businesses in the harbor, and those dependent upon harbor operations, are experiencing a loss of almost $59,000 per day.

Current statewide damage assessments are estimated at $48,147,938, in accordance with the table in Enclosure B. These assessments exceed California’s state threshold of $44 million as established by FEMA. Preliminary damage estimates of the types and amount of assistance needed under the Stafford Act are tabulated in Enclosures B and the estimated requirements for assistance from certain federal agencies under other statutory authorities are tabulated in Enclosure C.

California is in an economic crisis, has an estimated budget deficit of $26 billion, and has suffered multiple disasters in the last 18 months due to severe winter storms, flooding, mudslides, fire, drought, heavy rains, and earthquake. Since January 2010, California received four major federal disaster declarations, had six fires declared under FEMA’s Fire Management Assistance Grant Program, endured 20 events for which funds under the California Disaster Assistance Act were issued, and received four disaster designations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and seven U.S. Small Business Administration designations.

I certify that the recent tsunami incident, coupled with California’s other recent disasters, is of such severity and magnitude that supplementary federal assistance is necessary, as the effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments. I specifically request that you provide public assistance programs and any another disaster recovery programs that may be appropriate for Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties.

I am requesting that you make hazard mitigation assistance available statewide. The State of California has an enhanced Hazard Mitigation Plan that was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Cal EMA is also requesting a disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) based upon physical damages to fishery businesses in Del Norte County. For the counties that did not meet the criteria for a physical disaster declaration, economic injury surveys are currently being conducted to determine if the state can request an SBA Economic Disaster Injury Loan declaration.
I certify that for this major disaster, the state and local governments will assume all applicable non-federal shared costs as required by the Stafford Act. Total expenditures are expected to exceed $11,994,643, in accordance with the table in Enclosure D. In addition, I anticipate the need for debris removal, which poses an immediate threat to lives, public health, and safety. Under sections 403 and 407 of the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. Sections 5170b and 5173, the state agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the United States of America for any claims arising from the removal of debris or wreckage for this disaster. The state agrees that debris removal from public and private property will not occur until the landowner signs an unconditional authorization for the removal of debris.

I have designated Cal EMA’s Acting Secretary Mike Dayton as the State Coordinating Officer for this request. Mr. Dayton will work with FEMA in assessing damages and may provide further information or justification on my behalf.


Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Enclosure A
Enclosure B
Enclosure C
Enclosure D