Democrats blast proposed cuts to quake preparedness

Posted: Friday, March 02, 2001

SEATTLE (AP) -- Democrats in Washington state's congressional delegation on Friday again urged President Bush to rethink his plan to cut a $25 million earthquake preparedness program.

Speaking in the library of a Seattle elementary school, Rep. Jay Inslee and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell said the city's $1 million share of the Project Impact money paid for retrofits that likely saved lives and minimized damage in Wednesday's earthquake.

''We have seen firsthand over the last 24 hours how important Project Impact Funds are,'' Murray said after a helicopter tour assessing damage to roadways and buildings in the Puget Sound region.

Calling the $25 million ''money well spent,'' Murray said, ''It means millions of dollars will not have to be spent after the fact.''

Project Impact provides Federal Emergency Management Agency seed money for nonstructural retrofits to schools, homes and small businesses -- repairs like securing wobbly bookshelves and removing overhead hazards.

In Seattle, $1 million of the federal money helped pay for improvements at several schools and thousands of homes, said Ines Pearce, Seattle Project Impact coordinator.

Project Impact money has also paid for contractor training, hazard mapping and sophisticated seismometers the U.S. Geological Survey has used at research and monitoring stations scattered throughout the Western Washington.

President Bush's budget proposal for 2002 recommends that $25 million be saved by canceling the Project Impact disaster preparedness campaign, ''which has not proven effective.''

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said Thursday that Bush's budget proposal still contains millions of dollars for disaster aid and preparedness.

While some communities spent Project Impact money wisely, others didn't spend the money at all or used it for ''things not necessarily related to emergency preparedness,'' he said, citing as an example the use of Project Impact funds for Boy Scout training in Delaware.

''We do not want to suggest that the president or his administration is callous or indifferent to the needs of the Puget Sound,'' Inslee said.

But bad decisions can be made when budget cuts are carved out before programs are carefully evaluated, he said. ''They put a red X through Project Impact, frankly, without investigating its merits.''

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