Why researchers say budget cut to seismic monitoring system matters to Alaska

By  | 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s a statewide system monitoring seismic activity in Alaska that was crucial in learning more about the Nov. 30 earthquake – now Governor Dunleavy has vetoed its funding in his signing of the Capital Budget.

Scientists install a USArray seismic station northwest of Talkeetna (Alaska Earthquake Center).

The USArray is a network of seismic stations that helps gather data in Alaska -- a highly seismically active state. Beginning in 2014, scientists installed 280 instruments in remote and difficult-to-access areas. They were scheduled for removal in 2020, but Alaskan seismologists have resolved to keep them around.

"I think it's fair to say nowhere does it matter as much, or the impact as great, as it would potentially be in Alaska," state seismologist and research professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Michael West said.

When the governor announced a $2.5 million veto to the USArray System in his signing of the Capital Budget, West and fellow seismologists gasped in collective disappointment.

"I was disappointed,” West said. “We have been working for five years to retain significant portions of the USArray. By strategically purchasing those assets on state funds, we could ensure that they remain as part of that facility, instead of being sort of removed, or amputated if you will, from those sites."

In the line-item vetoes listed in the Capital Budget, the Office of Management and Budget justified the veto: “If this is a priority project it should be submitted for consideration during FY21 development.”

But West says the window is closing to purchase the system before it's deconstructed.

"This is truly a one-time opportunity that is coming to a close in a matter of months,” West said. “So while it's not midnight, we are already in the eleventh hour."

Democratic State Senator Bill Wielechowski, D – Anchorage, says vetoing funding for the USArray System is not in the best interest of Alaska's future. He says it may be difficult, but the Legislature will try to overturn many of the vetoes included in the Capital Budget.

"We need this information for a variety of reasons: to be able to properly shape our building codes, for example; to be able to figure out insurance rates, for example; to be able to design our major infrastructure properly so that it can withstand these major quakes that we have," Wielechowski said.

Wielechowski says the most probable scenario to reverse the vetoes is through another special session, likely in October. He says it's difficult to get the necessary 45 votes to overturn, but he thinks it will be a close margin. The question is, will salvation come in time for the USArray system?

Copyright KTUU 2019. All rights reserved.

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station. powered by Disqus