AK Delegation Concerned Over Omission of Alaskans at Earthquake Resilience Summit

“Huge opportunities exist for Alaska to advance our earthquake preparedness, but we can only make progress by ensuring Alaskan stakeholders are included in national discussions”

Today the Alaska Congressional Delegation spoke out about the Administration’s omission of Alaskan stakeholders at a recent national discussion on earthquake resiliency, sending a letter (attached) to the Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that reads:

“We write to you in regards to the interest of the Administration in improving the safety and resiliency of some of the Nation’s communities in earthquake-prone regions. We welcome the Administration’s proactive stance, but are concerned with the lack of opportunity provided to stakeholders in Alaska to participate in the Earthquake Resilience Summit that occurred on February 2, 2016.”

The delegation pointed out how the absence of Alaskan stakeholders was particularly notable in light of a 7.1 magnitude earthquake occurring just days prior to the Summit.

“It is our understanding that Alaska has not been included in any national discussions about the development of earthquake early warning systems. Given that Alaska is the most seismically active state in the nation, that the 10 largest earthquakes in the U.S. in the last 125 years have all been in Alaska, and the magnitude 7.1 earthquake just occurred only 160 miles outside of the State’s main population center, Alaska must be part of this conversation moving forward.”

During the Summit, Secretary Jewell showcased progress made on hazard resilience and called upon collaborators to join in on earthquake efforts, including commenting on the absence of representation by Alaska and the desire to partner with the University of Alaska. In their letter, the delegation touted the current earthquake monitoring partnerships in the state: the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the State of Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, and the USGC.

“Given Alaska’s tremendous earthquake vulnerability, it is imperative we seize all opportunities to develop the appropriate earthquake monitoring facilities, so that Alaska will be ready for earthquake early warning sooner rather than later. The ability to provide advance warning of major earthquakes to large industrial entities such as the Trans Alaska Pipeline, in state refineries, gas utilities, Department of Defense’s Missile Defense and other major military installations, the Alaska Marine Highway system, the Alaska Railroad, and medical facilities would yield significant environmental and human safety benefits to both Alaska and the nation.  Huge opportunities exist for Alaska to advance our earthquake preparedness, but we can only make progress by ensuring Alaskan stakeholders are included in national discussions.”

The delegation concluded by encouraging Secretary Jewell to support the collaboration between the State of Alaska and the USGC and add an Alaskan presence to the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council and the Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee as the Department looks to expand implementation of early warning systems.