Secretary Salazar Announces Recovery Act Funds to Upgrade Earthquake Networks

High-Hazard Areas in California Stand to Benefit

Last edited 09/29/2021

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the U.S. Geological Survey will fund $29.4 million in earthquake network upgrades nationwide through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, an investment that will significantly improve the timely delivery of information to high-hazard regions such as the Bay area.

Salazar made the announcement at a press conference in San Francisco behind the Ferry Building overlooking the Bay Bridge, which was heavily damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. He was joined by Representatives Grace Napolitano (D-38th CA), Jackie Speier (D-12th CA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-16th CA).

USGS will replace old instruments – some of which have not been upgraded in 40 years – with state-of-the-art, robust systems across the highest earthquake hazard areas in California, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, the Intermountain West, and the Central and Eastern United States.

“The timely delivery of earthquake information can mean the difference between life and death,” Salazar noted. “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. With nearly 75 million Americans living within earthquake prone areas, this investment is long overdue.”

Statewide, California has more than a 99 percent chance of having a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake within the next 30 years, according to scientists using a new model to determine the probability of big quakes. In the Bay area specifically, there is a nearly 2 out of 3 chance of an earthquake of that magnitude in that time period.

Secretary Salazar said that a significant portion of these funds can be expected to go to the state because of the high level of earthquake risk in California, the substantial existing partnerships that the USGS has with universities and the state, and the location of some of the major seismic equipment manufacturers in the state.

The funds will be used to:

  • upgrade the seismic and geodetic stations that monitor earthquakes;

  • improve communication systems to make them more robust and reliable;

  • lay the groundwork to enable earthquake early warning – The latter is a technology in operation in Japan, Taiwan and Mexico that uses sensor detections at the earthquake epicenter to broadcast warnings to nearby areas about to be shaken;

  • support students at universities in California who will be involved in the installation, providing a unique educational experience and helping to train the next generation of earthquake scientists;

  • help save jobs that are threatened by cuts in state funding in California.

The USGS earthquake monitoring funds are some of the first Department of the Interior projects under the Recovery Act. Overall, the Department of the Interior and its agencies will manage $3.0 billion in investments as part of the recovery plan signed by the President to jumpstart our economy, create or save jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st Century.

Secretary Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department of the Interior's economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on and on Secretary Salazar has appointed a Senior Advisor for Economic Recovery, Chris Henderson, and an Interior Economic Recovery Task Force. Henderson and the Task Force will work closely with the Department of the Interior's Inspector General to ensure that the recovery program is meeting the high standards for accountability, responsibility, and transparency that President Obama has set.

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