Dunleavy kneecaps earthquake research with false promise to 'wait until next year'
Thanks to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the state of Alaska is passing up the bargain of the century in earthquake science, turning away from the chance to buy up to 100 earthquake monitors, part of a system that cost about $50 million to install.
This is one of the many short-sighted actions by Dunleavy, who vetoed $2.5 million approved by the Legislature to help purchase a complex array of nearly 100 earthquake stations. The equipment is going to be removed, perhaps by next year, because the testing period for which it was installed, is ending.
The sponsoring consortium is planning to remove the stations because it has to limit its liability and bring the project to a close.
For Alaska, however, it is essential to improve our knowledge of earthquakes and this system would be a key part of doing just that for many years to come. That message was clear to legislators, but not to Dunleavy or TBD Donna Arduin.
In Dunleavy’s veto message, he said that “if this is a priority project,” it should be resubmitted next year.
It is a priority project and next year will be too late, as lawmakers were told. The university had asked for $5 million, the Legislature approved half that amount and Dunleavy cut it to zero.
Dunleavy and Arduin pretend not to know about the deadline to finish this deal, putting the threat posed by earthquakes and the need for greater scientific understanding behind their narrow anti-government ideology.
Federal funds have been lined up to keep some 43 of the earthquake stations, but the others are likely to be removed next year.
The National Science Foundation said the $50 million array of monitoring stations was installed in 2017. It was integrated with the existing seismic network “to provide high accuracy earthquake assessments across all of mainland Alaska including for the first time: the North Slope, Western Alaska, and Southeast. Data and products served by the center help determine building codes, insurance rates, tsunami evacuation zones, emergency response plans, and the design of every major infrastructure project in Alaska.”
You would think that any Alaska leader would recognize the importance of knowing more about earthquakes in the most seismically active state in the country, with more large and moderate quake than the entire rest of the nation combined. But you would be wrong to think that.
There is no excuse for Dunleavy’s veto. His shallow anti-government ideology, which has become the theme of his rule-by-veto regime, doesn’t qualify as an excuse.
Seismologist Kasey Aderhold, who has worked with the consortium backing the project for several years, wrote on her personal Twitter account, “I hope that Alaskans can convince elected officials that this is a opportunity that must be supported. I hope that can happen before we have to turn the lights off.”
“The grid pattern of stations is ideal for detecting tiny earthquakes across the state and imaging rupture patterns of large earthquakes from around the world. We added weather sensors to many stations, filling in huge gaps in the meteorological monitoring of this state,” she said.
“This network could be an absolute gem of our state, used by researchers around the world to study and monitor earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, nuclear tests, bolides, weather, sea ice, and more,” she said.
All told, 2,000 seismic stations were installed across North America. She said the stations in Alaska provided “extraordinary recordings” of major earthquake in Alaska in recent years, including those in Southcentral, not to mention the largest earthquake ever recorded on the North Slope.
"The grid pattern of stations is ideal for detecting tiny earthquakes across the state and imaging rupture patterns of large earthquakes from around the world. We added weather sensors to many stations, filling in huge gaps in the meteorological monitoring of this state,” she said.
For more information on this cutting-edge science that Alaska should not ignore go to www.usarray.org.