Lawmakers call for faster fault mapping

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quake-readingLOS ANGELES – Two state lawmakers Monday said California should pour more money into rapidly mapping known active earthquake faults, a safety measure that would keep new construction from being built atop dangerous  faults.

“The more we know,” said state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), “the better we can plan.”

His remarks came after The Times on Sunday reported that the state’s efforts to map active earthquake faults have slowed to a crawl, with many dangerous faults still undocumented. Between 1974 and 1991, 534 maps of faults were released, but only 23 have been drawn since 1991.

About 300 more maps need to be drawn — including some in heavily populated areas in Southern California. That represents about 2,000 miles of faults statewide.

The slow pace affects public safety. New construction is prohibited on top of the fissures because previous quakes have shown that buildings can be torn apart during violent shaking.

If the faults aren’t mapped, there’s no requirement to enforce the state law at those locations.

Padilla said Gov. Jerry Brown should put more money into the California Geological Survey’s budget for mapping when he releases his proposed budget in January.

“The amount of money is modest compared to our annual state budget,” Padilla said. “The more information we have, the better we can guide … planning and land use at the local level to ensure safety.”

Officials are currently drawing  the Hollywood fault and have scheduled the Santa Monica fault for next year. Authorities are concerned about several other zones that need new seismic research or revisions, including San Diego Harbor, Yorba Linda, the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys, Indio, Napa County and South Lake Tahoe.

Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), who sits on the state Seismic Safety Commission, said California should increase its mapping efforts.

“We need to work to make our state more secure for its known hazards,” Cooley said.

Cooley said the state was once a leader in finding out the cutting-edge knowledge for seismic safety, and, amid budget woes, “somehow, we’ve sort of lost the urgency.”

“The basic orientation of California for decades has been: We ought to be capturing the best available information that could produce a safer California and find a way to translate that into policy,” Cooley said. “I would be supportive of bringing that  knowledge to bear.”

When asked for comment, a spokesman for the governor, Evan Westrup, noted that “mapping started again last year under the Brown administration.”


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