Rep. Adam Schiff announced that the Appropriations Committee has once again included $5 million in funding in the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill for a west coast earthquake earlywarning system. Last year, for the first time, Congress appropriated $5 million specifically for the system. This continued funding during a time of severe budget constraints demonstrates the importance of the system and Congress’s commitment to seeing the system fully built out.
Earlier this year, Schiff led a group of 35 Members of Congress – primarily from California, Washington, and Oregon – to request that the committee fund an earthquake early warning system for the West Coast. A limited system developed by Caltech, UC-Berkeley, and the University of Washington, in conjunction with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), has already been deployed and has proven that the early warning technology is sound. It will cost an estimated $38.2 million to build out a full system for the west coast, with annual operating and maintenance costs of $16.1 million.
“I am pleased that the House Appropriations Committee has once again provided vital early funding for the earthquake early warning system. It is absolutely critical that the West Coast implement an earthquake early warning system that will give us a heads up before the ‘big one’ hits, so we can save lives and protect infrastructure,” said Schiff. “We are constantly reminded of our vulnerability—with tremors, earthquakes and aftershocks rattling our homes and business—and even a few seconds of warning will allow people to seek cover, slow or stop trains, pause surgeries, and more. Congress has made clear the importance of the system and our continued commitment. It’s time for our West Coast state government and local partners – now more than ever – to do their part with funding for this invaluable system.”
In March, Rep. Schiff and 35 Members of the House sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee urging them to fully fund an earthquake early warning system. Schiff’s letter requested additional funding for the Earthquake Hazards Program in USGS to continue the process of building out the earthquake early warning system so that we can be ready for the next big quake. In the letter sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, the Members wrote:
Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member McCollum:
As you craft the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you provide the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake Hazards program with $70.552 million, of which $16.1 million is to be provided to transition the earthquake early warning demonstration project into an operational capability on the West Coast. This is a $12.6 million increase over the FY2016 requested level in the President’s budget.
The USGS, in collaboration with Caltech, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington, and the University of Oregon has developed an Earthquake Early Warning system that detects waves radiating from the epicenter of a quake and would provide people in California, Oregon and Washington with seconds to even a minute or more of warning. With advanced notice, people can take cover, automated systems can be triggered to slow down trains and manage the power grid, doctors can pause surgeries, and more. The technology has been tested and proven to work effectively.
An earthquake early warning system along the West Coast would cost $16.1 million per year to construct, operate and maintain. FEMA has estimated that earthquakes cost the United States, averaged over the long term, more than $5 billion a year. This common-sense investment will save lives, protect businesses, and could make a real difference in more rapid recovery for local communities, the federal government and the economy as a whole.
While we cannot predict when and where the next major earthquake will hit, we must do all we can to prepare ourselves so that we can mitigate the injuries, destruction, and chaos as much as possible. We are grateful for your support last year and we appreciate your consideration of our request this year.