Rep. Schiff, Rep. DelBene and 39 Members Urge Increased Funding to Construct Earthquake Early Warning System

Washington, DC – Today, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA) were joined by 39 colleagues in Congress – primarily from California, Washington, and Oregon – in sending a letter to the Appropriations Committee urging them to increase federal funding level to $16.1 million in the Fiscal Year 2016 to fully build and maintain an earthquake early warning system on the West Coast.

Schiff first secured $5 million in funding for the system in FY15 and Congress increased funding to $8.2 million for FY16. This year, the members are requesting $16.1 million in funding. It is estimated that a full system of sensors will cost $38.2 million to build out along the West Coast, with annual operating and maintenance costs of $16.1 million.

A limited earthquake early warning system developed by Caltech, UC-Berkeley, University of Washington, and the University of Oregon in conjunction with the United State Geological Survey (USGS), has already been deployed in a beta testing phase and has proven that the early warning technology is sound. 

“It is imperative that Congress help to fund construction and continued maintenance of an earthquake early warning system along the west coast,” said Rep. Schiff. “The west coast resides on top of hundreds of fault lines – making our residents and infrastructure particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. The technology has proven itself both in testing here in the United States as well is in countries like Mexico and Japan and it would be irresponsible not to fund this critical technology before the next ‘big one’ hits.”

“While the Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful places to live, its landscape also presents unique challenges,” said Rep. DelBene. “Unfortunately, we know all too well earthquakes can cause great devastation and the U.S. Geological Survey has told us it’s only a matter of time before the next big one,” Rep. DelBene said. “We can and must make smart investments now in resources and research efforts to help prevent future natural disasters from becoming national tragedies.”

Schiff and DelBene were joined on the letter by Representatives Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Ami Bera (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Janice Hahn (D-CA), Michael M. Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Scott Peters (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

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 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you provide the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with $16.1 million for the construction, operation and maintenance of a West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System.

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 with several to tens of seconds of warning in California, and up to few minutes in Washington and Oregon through their phones, computers and other media. 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.

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.

Support in both Congress and the Administration has grown over the past few years. In his FY2017 budget, the President requested the highest level for the system yet – $8.2 million, and we appreciate the Committee’s support for the system in recent years.

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 appreciate your consideration of our request, and we look forward to working with you.