USArray and Alaska State Budget Cuts
Michael West

We usually keep budget discussions offline, but a lot of people have asked us how the governor’s recent line-item veto of USArray earthquake monitoring in the state capital budget will impact the Earthquake Center. Last evening’s KTUU news segment provides a good overview. The points below summarize where we are in the effort to adopt parts of the USArray facility. The bottom line is, USGS support is allowing us to save some USArray stations, at least for the short-term, but the governor’s $2.5 million veto limits Alaska’s prospects for adopting stations elsewhere in the state and jeopardizes $40+ million in federal investment going forward.

  • 1) This summer, we are in the process of assuming ownership of 43 USArray stations in southern Alaska thanks to generous support from the U.S. Geological Survey. We are cautiously optimistic about having the resources to operate these stations over the coming year, but we have a long road ahead at the federal level to build this into something we can reliably support for the future.
  • 2) There is, as yet, no actionable plan for adopting USArray sites in northern and western Alaska. We continue to engage with multiple federal agencies on ways to adopt some of these stations, but we are running out of time. These stations are slated for removal in the summer and fall of 2020, so field planning for those removals must begin in the next couple of months.
  • 3) The USArray capital request that Gov. Dunleavy vetoed last week was the sole research item submitted by the University of Alaska system for budget consideration this year. Conservatively, these one-time “start-up” funds would generate roughly $43M in federal investment over the first decade. The business plan that accompanied the capital request to the legislature and governor detailed the specific investment strategy including (i) the acquisition of equipment, (ii) upgrades & preventative maintenance, and (iii) the creation & delivery of new data products.

We have a lot of advocates in the Alaska legislature who have really taken the time to understand the project. Our congressional delegation in Washington DC is responsible for much of the success we have already had.  And we have a passionate set of advocates across federal agencies including USGS, NOAA, NSF. The recent veto is a significant setback. But we are in this for the long run.


Key documents

Project summary (2 p.)

Project implementation plan (48 p.)

Business plan (4 p.)

Station hut with person working on the door, snowy mountains in background.

USArray station D25K located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Staion hut overlooking small tundra lake. Mountainswith patchy snow in background.

USArray station N15K located 80 miles southeast of Bethel.