Seismic safety wins a round in Trump budget battle

Congress has been pushing back against cuts in seismic safety funding proposed in President Trump’s budget.

First, a congressional panel voted last week to keep funding a West Coast earthquake early warning system that could have been shut down under the proposed budget.

Then, a different subcommittee voted to continue funding a global tsunami detection system that gives U.S. officials an accurate forecast of when and how big floodwaters will arrive from a distant earthquake.

The House of Representatives’ appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Department of Commerce voted Thursday to reject a provision in Trump’s proposed budget that would have ended funding of the U.S. deep-ocean tsunami sensor network.

Ending funding for the $12-million network would have eventually shut it down, as batteries for the system’s 39 stations, located on sea floors around the world, would run out of power in about two years.

The deep-ocean tsunami sensing system was built after a false tsunami alert in 1986 caused a costly, unneeded evacuation of Honolulu’s famed tourist district, Waikiki, trapping cars in the evacuation zone and costing the state tens of millions of dollars.

(Ally Levine / @latimesgraphics)

The system was modernized and expanded to its latest incarnation after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 235,000 people and underscored the dangers of an inadequate tsunami warning system.

No deep-ocean sensors existed in the Indian Ocean when that tsunami struck, and the disaster led then-President George W. Bush and Congress to back the creation of a U.S.-led global tsunami sensing system, which increased the number of deep-ocean sensors operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from six to 39. There are also now 21 other sensors operated by eight other nations.

The panel also rejected a proposed reduction in funding for the U.S. tsunami warning centers. The Trump administration suggested cutting the number of tsunami…

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