President Barack Obama’s FY16 budget included an additional $3.5 million in base funding to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program for “Earthquake Early Warning and Rapid Event Characterization.” This increase would bring that base to approximately $5 million per year (but would be $1.5 million less than FY15 federal funding). The University of Oregon is a participant in the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and has made funding an earthquake early warning system a federal legislative priority.
USGS and its partner universities are developing an earthquake early warning system for the U.S. West Coast. The current system, ShakeAlert, is in test mode and since 2012 has been issuing alerts to dozens of potential system users. However, there are not enough sensors in the seismic networks along the West Coast to provide fast and reliable alerts. With funding appropriated by Congress in past years, including a one-time bump to $5 million for FY15, the USGS has been working with partners to improve network coverage and the monitoring of critical infrastructure along major faults, with the long-term goal of implementing a full West Coast system.
The Administration’s 2016 request for the USGS builds upon past federal, state, and private funding for ShakeAlert development. If the Administration’s request is funded by Congress, USGS will work with state, university, and private-sector partners to implement a public earthquake early warning system. Additional base funding will be needed to operate a full West Coast system; with an estimated cost of $16.1 million per year.