Earthquake bill provides prevention |

Earthquake bill provides prevention

They say timing is everything.

The Earthquake Loss Reduction Act of 2001, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is expected to make its way to the Senate Finance Committee next week.

The bill was introduced by Feinstein March 1, the day after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake in Olympia, Wash. The aim of the bill seeks to provide incentives for businesses, local governments and individuals to apply for grants and tax credits that will fund measures to prevent damage before earthquakes strike.

It would authorize $1 billion for a loss reduction trust fund, allow businesses to depreciate the cost of a seismic retrofit over five years, urge lower interest rates on mortgages for seismically retrofitted residences and establish an advanced seismic research and monitoring system based out of the U.S. Geological Survey.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle,” Feinstein’s spokesman Jim Hock said. “But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

“In the wake of (Feb. 28’s) earthquake in Washington, all of us recognize the importance of taking preventative measures in the event of a large temblor,” Feinstein stated. “This bill would help limit the human and economic impact caused by an earthquake – no matter where one strikes in the United States – while at the same time reducing the amount of government disaster assistance needed to recover.”

The 6.8-magnitude quake injured 29 people – four critically – and caused millions of dollars of property damage.

According to a recent Federal Emergency Management Agency study, future U.S. losses could total $4.4 billion a year.

For two years, the senator has worked on the proposal with FEMA and seimologists from the California Seismic Safety Commission and the California Institute of Technology.

Lake Tahoe is one of several communities nationwide signing on for FEMA funds to implement a town-by-town action plan that outlines what people should do and where they should go in the event of a natural disaster. It’s called Project Impact.

A collective of business and civic leaders spun out of the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce is setting up a priority list of disasters the basin should plan for. The core group also hopes to sign on community partners like health care facilities.

Local Project Impact Coordinator Pam Jenkins said she heard Seattle’s group was celebrating the third anniversary of its signing on with the program when the earthquake hit. The group was commending its efforts that prompted building retrofits. These upgrades kept people alive, Jenkins said.

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