Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank, CA) announced that Congress has included $8.2 million in the FY 2016 funding bill specifically designated for a West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System. The $8.2 million is a substantial increase over what the President requested in his budget and is a great victory for California and the West Coast. Congress included funds allocated for the system in a spending bill for the first time last year at $5 million.
The Earthquake Early Warning System is currently being developed by Caltech, UC-Berkeley, the University of Washington, and the University of Oregon in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). It can provide users with seconds to even a minute or more of warning before shaking hits, depending on the distance to the epicenter. A limited system already been deployed for test users has proved 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.
“By increasing the funding for the West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System, Congress is sending a message to the western states that it supports this life saving system. But the federal government cannot do it alone and will need local stakeholders, both public and private, to get behind the effort with their own resources,” said Rep. Adam Schiff. “This year, Congress allocated an additional eight million dollars, a very substantial sum in these budget constrained times, and I thank Chairman Calvert for his support. The Early Warning System will give us critical time for trains to be slowed and surgeries to be stopped before shaking hits – saving lives and protecting infrastructure. This Early Warning System is an investment we need to make now, not after the ‘big one’ hits.”
Earlier this year, Schiff led a group of 35 Members of Congress – primarily from California, Washington, and Oregon – to request that the Appropriations Committee fund an Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast. The final FY16 budget funds the Early Warning System at a higher level than the $5 million originally included in the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. The funding level in the FY16 budget also exceeds the President’s $5 million budget request earlier this year. Senator Feinstein, Rep. Schiff and 35 other Members of Congress sent a letter to the President last October, asking him to include funding for the West Coast Early Warning System for FY2016.
In December 2014, Congress passed a funding bill for FY2015 which included an additional $5 million specifically for the Earthquake Early Warning System, bringing the total funding for the system for FY2015 to $6.5 million. This was the first time Congress included funds specifically allocated for the system in a spending bill. That $5 million in funding allowed those developing the statewide system to begin purchasing and installing additional sensors, build new stations, speed up the ShakeAlert system, and come closer to deploying comprehensive early earthquake warning coverage throughout earthquake prone regions of the West Coast.
The explanatory language for the funding bill reads:
Natural Hazards.-Funding for the Natural Hazards program includes $60,503,000 for earthquake hazards, of which $8,200,000 is provided to transition the earthquake early warning demonstration project into an operational capability for the West Coast.