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The historical milestones of the laboratory include :

In 1972, the HWRL originated with the construction the large wave flume to study the stability of coastal structures
In 1989, the HWRL was expanded by the Office of Naval Research to include a directional wave basin and a spiral basin to study the complex, three-dimensional nature of coastal problems
In 2001, the HWRL was designated by the National Science Foundation as a site for Tsunami research within the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation.