WASHINGTON – President Obama has proposed spending $5 million in the upcoming federal budget on the West Coast’s earthquake early warning network, which would be a significant boost to the fledgling system if Congress approves the funding.
It is not the full $16.1 million a year needed to get the system up and running in as little as two years. But the backers of the system, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), praised the president’s endorsement as essential for a project that would give cities on the West Coast as much as a minute of warning before shaking from an earthquake arrives.
The money, penciled in for the budget year that will begin in October, would add onto the $5 million the U.S. Congress already approved for the current fiscal year.
“This has never been part of the president’s budget before,” Schiff said. “It’s significant.”
He said he hoped Obama’s support would prompt private companies as well as the California, Oregon and Washington state governments to financially support the system.
“The federal government is not in a position to build out and support this system on its own. It’s going to require the local buy-in of the West Coast states as well as the private industry that can benefit from this system,” Schiff said. “We’re going to go back to our state counterparts that have been supportive in spirit, but not yet in deed, and see if we can get them to pony up as well.”
More money is needed to buy and install earthquake sensor stations along the West Coast, test the computer software and teach the public what to do when they receive the alert.
To finish the West Coast early warning network, California needs to increase its number of earthquake-detecting sensors from about 400 to 1,120, according to the U.S. Geological Survey and Caltech.
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