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Oso Landslide Triggers Proposal For Statewide Geological Hazard Database

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Ted S. Warren
/
AP Photo
Workers put erosion-prevention measures in place above the rebuilt road between Darrington, Wash., and Arlington, Wash., that was wiped out by the devastating mudslide that killed 43 people last March in the community of Oso, Wash. on Sept. 23, 2014.

In the wake of the deadly landslide in Oso, Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that would create a statewide database for geological hazard mapping figures.

Information is an important resource when it comes to preparing for potential hazards such as landslides or earthquakes. 

“But right now there’s no central entity in the state of Washington that collects, analyzes, stores and makes available detailed LiDAR for analysis of geological hazards,”  said Sandra Kaiser with the state Department of Natural Resources.   

LiDAR uses lasers and aerial photography to create the best maps possible, and some counties have already used it in high-risk areas. But the information only exists in bits and pieces.

Legislation now headed for committee in Olympia would create a central database, administered by DNR, where homebuyers or government planners could see if hazards exist.

The department has requested about $6.5 million to identify and inventory potential danger areas. The money would pay for 14 new positions as well as data analysis and outreach. The department also wants to assist local jurisdictions and show the public how to use the new database.

The request is in line with priorities outlined in recommendations made by the state's SR 530 Landslide Commission report released in December. 

Commission director Kathy Lombardo said the fact that the legislation was introduced so early in the session gives her hope. But she cautioned that pressure must stay on lawmakers to ensure that DNR's request is fulfilled.

"I do have some hope. The question is: What happens during the next several months and does it actually get funded?" Lombardo said. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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