FEMA funds boost mapping of earthquake-prone areas.
The program provides extensive information on hazards and mitigation to local governments in the three counties affected by the Northridge earthquake for incorporation into the safety element of their general plans. It is the first phase of seismic hazard zoning that will eventually address all of the earthquake-prone urban and urbanizing portions of the state.
Funding from FEMA, $3.75 million per year out of a grant program established following the Jan. 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake, will be spread over 2 1/2 years and administered through Governor Wilson's Office of Emergency Services. The Department of Conservation will contribute $1.25 million per year to the program.
"Using seismic hazards data, Californians can learn to live with the geology of our state," said Michael F. Byrne, state director of conservation. "This funding allows the Department of Conservation to apply the latest technology and the best science toward targeting the state's most threatening seismic hazards."
In the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the State Legislature passed the Seismic Hazards Mapping Act in 1990 to help avoid damage resulting from earthquakes. The Department of Conservation has the legal mandate for implementation of the Act, which calls for the State Geologist to designate zones where seismic hazards are likely to exist. Zone maps are used by state and local agencies for site-specific development planning and hazards evaluation and mitigation.
Originally, the mapping program was to have been funded by earthquake insurance premiums and fees on certain types of construction permits. However, funding was reduced two-thirds with repeal of the earthquake insurance law and a drop in construction.
"The identification of California's seismic hazards is a critical priority and we cannot accept any delays in providing this information to the citizens of this state," Byrne said.
The Department of Conservation actively sought this FEMA grant to fill the funding void. The grant will reduce by approximately 50 years the production time of seismic hazards zone maps. Currently, the Department is mapping areas in the city and county of San Francisco, as well as investigating appropriate methodologies for zoning earthquake-induced landslide hazards in northern California.
Ultimately, official seismic hazard zone maps will be made for Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties, as well as the San Francisco Bay area. In addition, a local government demonstration project will study how maps are incorporated into the development and planning process.
Data for hazards maps is obtained from a variety of sources, including Caltrans and other state agencies, the United States Geological Survey, consultants, local governments and Department of Conservation staff field observations. Supporters of the project include the USGS, the Seismic Safety Commission and the Governor's Office of Emergency Services.
"This mapping is in many ways the foundation of the state's commitment to a systematic process for reducing California's seismic risk," said Richard Andrews, director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services.
Headed by State Conservation Director Michael F. Byrne, the California Department of Conservation studies earthquakes and landslides; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells; promotes beverage container recycling; safeguards farmland; and manages California's earth resources.
CONTACT: California Department of Conservation
Pamela Morris, 916/323-1886