A pair of elected officials announced today that President Barack Obama included $5 million in the new federal budget for an earthquake early warning system on the West Coast.
The funding is included in a record $4 trillion federal spending package for fiscal year 2016, and it marks the first time the president has requested funds specifically for such a system.
“The next West Coast earthquake is a question of when, not if, and an earthquake early-warning system is necessary to save lives, reduce property damage and protect critical infrastructure,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Calif.
“The Obama administration has now expressed its support for this project by requesting additional funds to build it. I will work with my fellow West Coast senators and representatives this year to secure federal funds and hope to see the state and private sector step up and contribute their fair share,” she said.
A limited warning system, developed by Caltech, UC Berkeley and the University of Washington, is already in place, sometimes giving several seconds of warning when quakes strike.
Expanding the system and maintaining it across the state, as well as Oregon and Washington, is expected to cost millions more, but Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, said the initial funding from Congress is a positive first step.
“A fully-built out West Coast earthquake early warning system is critical to saving lives and protecting infrastructure by giving us a heads-up before the next ‘big one’ hits,” Schiff said. “By including an additional $5 million in funding from last year’s initial federal investment, President Obama is acknowledging that this is something that cannot wait any longer.
“We couldn’t agree more,” he said. “Through the appropriations process, we will work to make sure that we secure this additional funding, so residents have a critical advanced warning to seek cover, automatically slow or stop trains, pause surgeries and more.”
The funding will allow those developing the 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, Schiff said.