Millions in Earthquake Upgrades on Tap for State

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in San Francisco that the U.S. Geological Survey will fund $29.4 million in  earthquake network upgrades nationwide, a large portion of which will go to  California and high-hazard regions such as the Bay Area.

Salazar was joined by Congresswomen Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Grace Napolitano, D-Santa Fe Springs, to  announce the funding, which comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The funds will replace old instruments and equipment, some of which have not been upgraded in 40 years.

"The timely delivery of earthquake information can mean the difference between life and death," Salazar said.

"It requires critical infrastructure such as modern seismic networks and data processing centers so scientists can provide emergency  responders with information to save lives and reduce economic losses," he  said

Salazar said scientists have determined that California has more than a 99 percent chance of having a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake  within the next 30 years, and the Bay Area has nearly a two out of three  chance of an earthquake of that magnitude in that time period.

Because of the heightened risk of a major earthquake in California, the state will receive about a third of the $29.4 million for  upgrades, according to Salazar.

The funds will be used to upgrade seismic stations that monitor earthquakes, improve communications systems, and lay the groundwork to enable  earthquake early warnings, a technology that uses sensor detections at an  earthquake epicenter to warn nearby areas about to be shaken.

Lofgren said "you can't do the science if you don't have the equipment, and this is an effort to change that."

She said that this was the biggest one-time increase in science funding in the history of the country, and was part of $140 million that the USGS will receive for various programs nationwide.

The announcement was made behind the Ferry Building and overlooked the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which was heavily damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

Speier referred to the damage to the Bay Bridge and other landmarks as reasons why "we have to be prepared as a region" for the next big earthquake.     

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