Quake fault info a must

By Thomas D. Elias

Anyone who has seen the epicenter of a major earthquake following a temblor knows that California’s legal and scientific priorities have lately been seriously skewed.

Now, put these recent events together: First, the state Legislature passes and Gov. Jerry Brown signs a new law to require development of a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system. Estimated initial cost will be $80 million.

Next comes a report detailing how the state’s effort to map all its significant earthquake faults has slowed almost to a stop, starting just after the 1971 Sylmar event that destroyed a veterans hospital, among other things. That quake occurred on a fault no one previously knew existed and for 20 years mapping was a priority, with 534 maps published detailing active faults.

But since 1991, reports the Los Angeles Times, just 23 more maps have been drawn, none between 2004 and 2011 because of budget cuts. About 300 more faults must be mapped. Then word arrives that a multi-campus team of University of California scientists, funded by the National Science Foundation, has identified about 1,500 of the most apparently quake-vulnerable buildings in Los Angeles, using public records and a walking survey.

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