On the West Coast, We Need an Earthquake Early Warning System

On the West Coast, We Need an Earthquake Early Warning System

In Denying Us an Earthquake Early Warning System, President Trump is Not Providing for the Common Defense or General Welfare.

The inaugural presidential oath is to uphold the constitution of the United States. The preamble to the Constitution is:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, …

Defense is commonly meant to mean against all threats, foreign and domestic, and the general welfare, means to safeguard ourselves and our property.

It is therefore a Constitutional issue that in President’s Trump 2018 budget, he specifies that no new projects in the US Geological Survey should mean that the valuable, new West Coast earthquake early system not be funded.

The early warning earthquake system called ShakeAlert which was requested from the USGS. With up to a minute electronic early warning from a quake on the San Andreas fault until the vibrations reach coastal cities, so much can be done to minimize the damage. Japan already has such a system. It can shut down trains and elevators. It can shut down gas feeds. In the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, many buildings survived, but burned down over the next days due to a continuing gas supply. Our water supply crosses the fault, and could be blocked before the system is damaged. Fire engines can be driven out of their garages. Freeways could be warned of shaking coming and slow traffic down. Industry can lock down and shut down sensitive manufacturing equipment. Many applications are not even apparent yet, but will grow with the system.

The early warning, along with tsunami monitoring and instant warning, are also useful along the Oregon and Washington Coast, where a subduction fault can cause tsunamis and stronger earthquakes than the San Andreas slip fault.

The cost is a relatively inexpensive tens of millions of dollars. So far, $23 million have been funded by the federal government. It will employ 40 to 50 people. It is less than the $135 million cost of an F35B fighter aircraft.

The current request is for $8.2 million and 10 positions.

The overall project will cost $38 million to build, and $16 million yearly.

What if the Trump administration cuts all funding?  California has a GDP of $2.46 trillion and is the 6th largest economy in the world.  We have a $171 billion state budget.  The cost of the system is 0.0015% of a single year’s GDP.  The cost is a single time $1.00 cost per resident of California.  On an upkeep basis yearly, the $16 million is 0.009% of our yearly budget.  It is 42 cents per resident per year to upkeep the system.  California, Washington, and Oregon should go it alone and control our own system!

There is a monetary, real estate, and developer special interest in these cuts.  They defund scientists to evaluate the need for better earthquake resistance regulations, and to upgrade standards to strengthen present buildings and structures.  Our health and safety are much more important than these special interests, and all those administrators and legislators who swear to uphold the Constitution have to put us first.

There is also a program to study earthquakes in the Central and Eastern states.  This would cover the earthquakes in Oklahoma caused by high pressure injection of fracking waste water in wells.  Clearly, Harold Hamm of Oklahoma fracking, and a Trump energy advisor, would oppose such studies.

Politically, Washington, Oregon, and California each have two Democratic Senators. California has the largest House Congressional Delegation in the nation of 53 representatives, with 38 Democrats and 14 Republicans, with one vacancy. Oregon has 4 Democrats and 1 Republican. Washington has 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans. The question of earthquake safety should not be a partisan issue. Totally, we have 68 representatives, or 15.6% of the 435 House members.

Considering the massive damage that an earthquake can do, both from the local Newport fault moving a long distance up or down the coast, and the more distant but powerful San Andreas fault, the early warning system can ameliorate the damage and lives lost to our most serious threat, an earthquake.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
This entry was posted in California Democratic Primary, California Federal Funding, Congress, Constitution, Donald Trump, Earthquakes, Science Funding, Trump Budget. Bookmark the permalink.

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