U.S. House passes bill to reduce loss from landslides

A man in a yellow vest looks at an earthen pillar on a hillside
USGS engineer Brian Collins examines part of the Oso, Wash. landslide deposit in 2014. (Mark Reid/USGS)

The U.S. House passed a bill Thursday to create a landslide hazard reduction program.

The impetus was not the destructive slide in Haines this week, but the Oso, Wa., landslide in 2014 that killed 43 people.

Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., has been working to get the bill passed since she introduced it in 2016. She said it will improve landslide science and better prepare communities.

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“As the Oso landslide demonstrated, simply sending aid after a tragic natural disaster is insufficient,” she said on the House floor Thursday, just before the measure passed by voice vote. “We need to do more to fund programs and research efforts to prevent natural disasters from becoming national tragedies.”

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The Senate had already passed a similar bill, but must now pass the House’s revised version. DelBene’s staff said that was highly likely.

The program established by the bill would be part of the U.S. Geological Survey. Among other things, it would create a public database of landslide hazards, and expand an early warning system for debris flow.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.