Local groups join forces to improve Oregon's earthquake detection

Oregon leaders are working to install Shake alert - an early earthquake detection system. (SBG photo)

EUGENE, Ore. - An early earthquake warning system is protecting the west coast, anticipating tremors. The USGS system, Shake Alert was rolled out in California in 2016.

The expansion of the Shake Alert system is a group effort. Monday, representatives from Eugene Water & Electric Board, University of Oregon, and Gov. Kate Brown' s office all shared reasons why they value this statewide seismic safety pilot project.

“Today is a culmination of a lot of work by many partners to improve our readiness and response to earthquakes,” said EWEB general manager Mike McCann.

From California to Seattle, those partnerships will make the west coast safer.

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"We would have seconds if not minuets of time to start responding before the danger is even present," said EWEB generation engineering supervisor Mark Zinniker.

Shake Alert's earthquake system runs on sensors. Those sensors span statewide with seismometers, power, and data to detect and warn for earthquakes.

"It integrates well with the rest of what's happening on the west coast," Brown said.

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network spearheads the effort that includes the University of Washington and Oregon.

"One of our goals here at the University of Oregon is to work with people, like EWEB, and other stake holders in the region to raise the capital funds to build out the seismic network," said University of Oregon professor of geophysics Douglas Tommey.

Tommey said the university has raised $1 million to build up the Oregon seismic network.

"A lot of knuckles and know-how, hard work to go out and install sites," said Tommey.

EWEB said the investment will benefit them and the public when the big one hits.

"Opening breakers to critical facilities that could be damaged by the shaking," said Zinniker.

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150 Oregon Shake Alert sensors are up and running now, but the project is only 40 percent complete.

"Once the system is built out, we'll be ready to hit the ground running," Zinniker said.

Everyone invested in the project hopes the pilot work will pull through when the remaining funds and 60 percent of the project is completed. EWEB installed one Shake Alert sensor at the Leaburg Dam in March.

Shake Alert said they hope to be operational within two years. The full system will cost about 38 million dollars to build, plus 16 million a year to operate.

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