CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ALERT: Representatives Needed to Support Seismic Network

(Posted 6-11-03; Updated 9-5-03)

FINAL ACTION: This "Dear Colleague" letter was sent to the House Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations on June 16th with the signatures of 19 representatives. Click here for a PDF version of the letter with signers listed.

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 on June 16th 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 in this message. Additional signatures for the letter must be received by this Friday, June 13th, so please call or e-mail in the next two days.

***********************

At a May 8th hearing on the reauthorization of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), House Research Subcommittee Chairman Nick Smith (R-MI) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) voiced concern over the low funding for the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS). Housed within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), ANSS will be a nationwide network of shaking measurement systems centered on urban areas that can provide real-time earthquake information to emergency responders as well as building and ground shaking data for engineers and scientists seeking to understand earthquake processes. The Earthquake Hazards Reduction Authorization Act of 1999 authorized $35 million annually for five years, but actual appropriations for the program have been lagging at only one-tenth of this authorized amount. In the president's request for fiscal year (FY) 2004, even that reduced amount would be cut by in half down to $2 million.

On May 20th, Smith and Lofgren sent a joint letter co-signed by other members of the Research Subcommittee to Reps. Charles Taylor (R-NC) and Norman Dicks (D-WA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Related Agencies, calling for at least $10 million for ANSS in FY 2004. A similar letter (attached below) is now being circulated to all House members asking them to join in supporting ANSS with the intention of sending it on June 16th.

Please call your representative and ask him or her to sign on to the Smith-Lofgren letter by Friday, June 13th. 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 Dan Byers, 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

June 16, 2003

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 FY04 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-tenth of the authorized level.

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 dollars, 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 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 that are of 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 Margaret A. Baker and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Sources: NEHRP Coalition.

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

Posted June 11, 2003; Updated September 5, 2003


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