Scout recently prepared more than two dozen Categorical Exclusions (CATEXs) (focused NEPA documentation) for the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) innovative Earthquake Early Warning network in the Pacific Northwest. Scout applied a focused, replicable, and accurate approach to complete 26 CATEXs and meet associated regulatory requirements. This was an enjoyable project for an innovative and new client.
The Foreshock – Program Background
As part of natural hazard monitoring, warning, and mitigation, the USGS, the University of Washington, and the University of Oregon (jointly referred to as the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network – PNSN) operate a seismic monitoring program in Washington and Oregon. The program provides critical information to promote public health and safety. The project supports the upgrade of existing seismograph stations and the installation of new ones. But the program isn’t limited to just the 26 Pacific Northwest Earthquake Early Warning stations we analyzed, as other stations are distributed throughout active seismic regions and are already proving to be very useful.
The Main Event – How it Works
As shown below (graphic courtesy of the USGS), the shaking waves from an earthquake travel slower than the speed of today’s communications systems. So when an Earthquake Early Warning station detects the advance “P-waves” from a seismic event, the station can immediately send out a notice, providing crucial seconds, perhaps even more than a minute, to take action before the arrival of the slower and more destructive “S-waves.” The system has already proven effective. For example, before a 5.3 earthquake hit L.A. in April this year, an Earthquake Early Warning alert gave officials a 10-second warning. And in 2014, the early-warning system gave San Francisco eight seconds of warning before a 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit Napa. For more information on the USGS Earthquake Early Warning, visit their website here: https://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/earlywarning/.
Without Fault – Our Scope of Work
Scout evaluated the construction and operation of 26 Earthquake Early Warning stations (see below drawing of station components [USGS source]) in a variety of locations and associated environments – from deserts to temperate rain forests to urban airports. We also identified Tribal interests and listed species and/or sensitive habitat located at or near the project sites. We also recommended State Historic Preservation Officers engagement strategies and resource-avoidance measures for applicable stations. Scout completed the NEPA documentation ahead of schedule and earned high performance ratings. As a related aside, it turns out my dad lives near one of the proposed Earthquake Early Warning stations. He studied geology and was very interested to learn about the project and the station proposed for near his house!
Predicting the Future
With a recent boost to their budget, the USGS and their academia partners are poised to expand the Earthquake Early Warning program. We are ready to apply the efficiencies and knowledge we learned on this project to complete NEPA and regulatory compliance requirements for future Earthquake Early Warning stations. Innovative science is cool and we are very happy to support its efficient!
The Aftershock – Summary
Scout is proud to have contributed to this scientific advancement that has and will continue to help save lives and provide timely information to instantaneously manage key infrastructure in the event of a destructive earthquake. We look forward to applying our efficient approaches to NEPA and regulatory compliance for your innovative projects. And a thank you to our partner Chloeta who helped make this project possible for us. For further inquiries, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.