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CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ALERT
Represenatives Needed to Support Seismic Network

(Posted 4-23-04)


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL: Reps. Nick Smith (R-MI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) are asking their colleagues to co-sign a letter of support for the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS). They will send the letter at the end of May to the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the U.S. Geological Survey, where ANSS is located. AGI urges geoscientists to contact their representatives this week and recommend that they sign onto the Smith-Lofgren letter. The text of the "Dear Colleague" letter is included at the bottom of this message. Additional signatures for the letter must be received by May 26th, but Reps. Smith and Lofgren are urging everyone to take action before then.


The bill that would increase funding and reform the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) was passed by the House of Representatives on October 1, 2003. The bill authorizes more than $500 million through FY 2006 and designates the National Institutes of Standards and Technology as NEHRP's chair. To date, there has been no action on this bill in the Senate. Staff members of the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space have said that the subcommittee will consider the House bill and are currently working with the Senators to schedule a hearing and markup sometime later this year.

Please call your representative and ask him or her to sign on to the Smith-Lofgren letter by Wednesday, May 26th.

The U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 will connect you to your representative's office. E-mail messages can be sent to your representative via the Write Your Representative website at http://www.house.gov/writerep/.

When you talk to your representative's staff, let them know that to add their Member to the list they should contact: If Republican, then contact James Hague, professional staff member for the House Science Committee (202 225 7858); if Democrat, then David Carreiro in Rep. Zoe Lofgren's office (202 225 3072). Just to reiterate, these are the people whom staff should call to add their Member to the list, not the individuals whom we are asking geoscientists to contact.

For additional information on ANSS, please see the following: An article on ANSS appeared in the October 2002 issue of Geotimes and can be read on the web at http://www.agiweb.org/geotimes/oct02/feature_anss.html. The USGS fact sheet on ANSS can be found at http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs-012-03/ and related resources are available at http://www.anss.org.

A summary of the May 8th Research Subcommittee hearing with links to testimony is at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/nehrp.html and for additional commentary on the hearing, please see the Political Scene column in the June 2003 issue of Geotimes -- "Congress Re-examines Earthquake Policy" -- at http://www.geotimes.org/june03/scene.html.

Thank you for acting on this request for action. Please let us know if you make a contact or if you have any questions (govt@agiweb.org; 703 379 2480 x212; fax 703 379 7563).


Text of Smith-Lofgren Dear Colleague Letter

April 2, 2004

Hon. Charles H. Taylor, Chairman
House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Interior
B308 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515-6023
Hon. Norman Dicks, Ranking Member
House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Interior
B308 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC. 20515-6023

Dear Chairman Taylor and Ranking Member Dicks:

As you begin consideration of the FY05 budget for the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), we ask that you consider a funding level of at least $10 million for this important program. The ANSS, an integrated seismic monitoring network that will be concentrated in high-seismic risk urban areas, was authorized in 2000 as part of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), but has been funded at only about one-eighth of the authorized level ($4.4 million in FY04).

We have growing concerns that continued under-funding of the program will substantially limit the ability of NEHRP to mitigate earthquake hazards. While we would much prefer to see the program funded at its authorized level of $35 million, we understand that may not be possible in this budget environment. However, by funding ANSS at least $10 million, the program will be able to move ahead with the bare minimum of implementation necessary to learn from the next significant earthquake.

The need for ANSS cannot be disputed. Much of the seismographic equipment currently being used today is over 30 years old, and cannot reach the level of precision and scope of modern equipment. The ANSS provides an equipment upgrade, and harnesses modern telecommunications and robust centralized computer processing to provide a nationwide uniform minimum standard for earthquake monitoring.

The data that ANSS provides will be crucial for citizens, emergency responders, engineers, and government officials. With modern equipment, the USGS can develop detailed "shakemaps," which provide a precise geographic measurement of shaking intensity during an actual earthquake. The ANSS will provide important information to emergency management officials in the moments following an earthquake to determine where to dispatch first responders. The ANSS will also yield important data to help engineers design buildings to prevent the future loss of life in earthquakes, as well as important information on fundamental earthquake processes to earth scientists trying to better understand why and how earthquakes occur.

As originally conceived, the ANSS calls for expenditures of $170 million over a five-year period for equipment, plus additional maintenance costs. In reality, however, funding levels have fallen far short of this figure, and the Administration's request of $1.9 million for FY 2004 is the lowest level yet. If this trend were to continue, the ANSS would not be completed for another fifty years.

The United States Geological Survey puts the likelihood of a magnitude 6.7 earthquake occurring in the San Francisco Bay Area by 2032 at 62%. Those of us in the Western United States know all too well the high costs in terms of human life and property of such a large earthquake. However, this problem is not limited only to California, the state most often associated with America's earthquake threats. Many other parts of the country, including the Mississippi River valley, Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West, Alaska, Hawaii and parts of the eastern seaboard face significant earthquake risks. In fact, seventy-five million people, including forty-six million outside California, live in metropolitan areas in the United States at moderate to high earthquake risk.

The time to properly fund ANSS is now. We can't afford to wait for the next big earthquake to start providing this badly needed funding. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Nick Smith
Member of Congress
Zoe Lofgren
Member of Congress


Alert prepared by Emily M. Lehr and Gayle Levy, AGI Government Affairs Program

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted April 23, 2004