Murkowski, Cantwell, Gardner, Wyden, Feinstein Reintroduce Bill to Help Prepare and Protect Communities from Landslides

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., recently reintroduced bipartisan legislation to improve the science and coordination needed to help local communities prepare for and respond to landslides and other natural hazards.

S. 529, the National Landslide Preparedness Act, will help protect communities and property, save lives, and improve emergency preparedness and planning by targeting key gaps in current science and mapping critical to understanding landslide hazards and risks.

“Alaska has been dealing with the impacts of landslides for decades, most recently as a result of the southcentral earthquake last November,” Murkowski said. “Due to the great work by the U.S. Geological Survey, we had quick access to accurate data on high-risk areas for landslides, and were able to warn people accordingly. This legislation will enable the Survey and other agencies to continue making those projections to help keep communities safe.”

“Five years ago, we saw how devastating landslides can be, when a landslide tragically killed 43 people and caused millions of dollars in damage in Oso, Washington,” Cantwell said. “This bill will help keep communities and infrastructure safe by improving preparedness for landslides and other natural hazards.” 

“In 2014, Colorado experienced the longest landslide in our state’s history. This tragic event upended lives and devastated communities,” Gardner said. “I’m pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this important bipartisan legislation to improve emergency coordination efforts and address the vulnerability of our state’s infrastructure brought on by these natural catastrophes.”

“The safety of Oregonians and families across America threatened by landslides and other natural disasters must be a priority for Congress,” Wyden said. “To help keep communities safe, they must be prepared. That means making sure they have access to the technology and resources needed to be ready when the next disaster strikes.”

“Too many Californians have lost their homes, businesses or lives to devastating landslides, including the mudslides that struck Sausalito last week,” Feinstein said. “As we experience more extreme weather and severe wildfires due to climate change, the risk for deadly landslides will also increase. We must be ready. Our legislation will help communities identify risks and better prepare for future landslides.”

Specifically, the legislation would establish a National Landslide Hazards Reduction Program at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to better identify and understand landslide risks, protect communities, save lives and property, and help improve emergency preparedness.

In addition, the bill would direct the USGS to implement a 3D Elevation Program to update and coordinate the collection of elevation data across the country using enhanced, high-resolution data. Enhanced elevation data helps communities plan for and respond to natural hazards; update the nation’s topographical maps; and inform uses including public safety, national security, planning, infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, and natural resource management.

High-resolution elevation data has been collected for only about a quarter of the United States. Much of the country relies on data collected more than 30 years ago using older techniques that do not provide the same resolution and benefits. An ongoing federal-state partnership has collected such data for about three-quarters of Alaska—an accomplishment that is an example for the rest of the country. According to an assessment conducted in partnership with the USGS, the creation of a nationwide program, as outlined in this bill, has the potential to generate $1.2 billion to $13 billion annually in new benefits.

Click here for the bill text. 

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