Press Releases

Reps. Schiff, DelBene, DeFazio and 44 Colleagues Urge Increased Funding to Build Out Earthquake Early Warning System

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Washington, D.C., March 16, 2018 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) were joined by 44 Members of Congress – primarily from California, Washington, and Oregon – in sending a letter to the Appropriations Committee urging them to increase the federal funding level to $16.1 million in the Fiscal Year 2019 to fully build out and maintain an earthquake early warning system on the West Coast.

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

“Congress must continue to fund construction and maintenance of an earthquake early warning system along the West Coast, which sits atop major fault lines,” said Rep. Schiff. “Our residents and infrastructure are particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. The earthquake early warning technology has been proven sound during testing in the United States, as well is in countries like Mexico and Japan, and it would be irresponsible not to provide this life-saving technology to the public 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. We can and must make smart investments now in resources and research efforts to help prevent future natural disasters from becoming national tragedies.”

“In an earthquake, every second counts,” said Rep. DeFazio. “The University of Oregon and other West Coast universities are doing important work to build an early warning system that will give people extra seconds to save lives, avoid or reduce injury and mitigate infrastructure damage during a major earthquake. I will continue to push for the funding necessary to develop and deploy earthquake preparedness and earthquake early warning systems.”

Schiff, DelBene and DeFazio were joined on the letter by Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Ami Bera (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), John Garamendi (D-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), Denny Heck (D-WA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Scott Peters (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Linda 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), Norma Torres (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Schiff first secured $5 million in funding for the system in FY15. Congress increased funding to $8.2 million for FY16 and then again to $10.2 for FY17. The FY2018 House Interior bill included $10.2 million, but this funding has not been enacted. 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.

The full letter sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, is below:

Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member McCollum:

As you craft the Fiscal Year 2019 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, also called ShakeAlert.

The USGS, in collaboration with Caltech, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington, and the University of Oregon, has developed ShakeAlert, which 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. This is a “smart infrastructure” investment that will ultimately provide advanced notice so 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.

We appreciate the growing support from the Committee that we saw over the past few years, and we hope that this support will continue this year.

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.


Adam B. Schiff
Member of Congress

Suzan DelBene
Member of Congress

Peter DeFazio
Member of Congress


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