Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Legislation to bolster landslide preparedness and safety introduced in Congress

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WASHINGTON, DC -  In a move to enhance national preparedness and response to landslide hazards, U.S. Representatives Kim Schrier (WA-08), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), and Marie Glusenkamp Perez (WA-03) have introduced the National Landslide Preparedness Act Reauthorization Act (H.R. 7003). This bipartisan bill, if passed, will reauthorize the National Landslide Preparedness Act through fiscal year 2028, building upon the foundation set by the original act enacted in 2021.

The 2021 legislation empowered the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to establish a National Landslide Hazards Reduction Program. Its core mission is to identify and understand landslide risks, mitigate losses, protect at-risk communities, and enhance communication and emergency preparedness strategies.

Washington state, a region with a history of devastating landslides, including the 2014 State Route 530 landslide — the deadliest in U.S. history — is particularly vulnerable. The increasing severity and frequency of wildfires across Washington and other western states exacerbate this threat, leaving burn areas highly susceptible to landslides.

Congresswoman Schrier remarked on the urgency of the bill, recalling the 2014 landslide that claimed 43 lives. "Nearly ten years ago, our community felt the devastating impact of landslides firsthand as the SR 530 Landslide claimed 43 lives, making it the deadliest in U.S. history," said Rep. Schrier. "This bill will make crucial investments to further our understanding of landslides, improve our preparation for these natural disasters, and ultimately safeguard our communities." 

The proposed legislation would enable the USGS to develop a national landslide strategy, a comprehensive hazard and risk inventory database, expand early warning systems for debris flow, and establish rapid response protocols for significant landslide events. It also aims to improve subsidence and groundwater resource accounting and establish a 3D elevation program.

The bill also provides for grants to support research, mapping, data collection on landslide hazards, and the National Science Foundation may offer grants for landslide research.

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