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Congress grants California ⅓ of the funding it needs for earthquake warning system




The map above depicts the locations where the U.S. Geological Survey has installed earthquake sensors in Southern California as part of a prototype early warning detection system.
The map above depicts the locations where the U.S. Geological Survey has installed earthquake sensors in Southern California as part of a prototype early warning detection system.
U.S. Geological Survey

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Through the recently passed 2015 budget bill, Congress appropriated $5 million dollars to help fund California’s statewide earthquake warning system, however, the funding is only a ⅓ of the $16.1 million needed per year to establish and maintain for California, Oregon, and Washington state as the system is expected to cost $80 million in the first five years of its operation.

The system has already been created and shown its success following early warnings sent out after multiple moderate earthquakes throughout the state. While the system cannot predict earthquakes before they occur, the system is beneficial for those who live far away from an earthquake’s epicenter but will still experience its effects. For example, a 6.0 earthquake hit the town of Napa on August 24, and officials in San Francisco had eight seconds of warning before they were hit by the seismic shifts due to the early warning system.

Thus, the issue at hand is not whether or not the early warning system works but rather if it can garner enough funding to be implemented across California. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has called the $5 million “a down payment,” and she also said “more funding is needed to complete the system.” Yet as Republicans take control of the Senate and entrench their control over the House of Representatives, future Congressional appropriations to the earthquake warning system remain unclear.

Where will the rest of the money for the earthquake warning system come from? Should Californians prioritize earthquake safety over other pressing issues such as the drought?

Guest:

Sanden Totten, KPCC Science reporter