Murkowski, Cantwell Introduce Legislation to Reauthorize the National Landslide Preparedness Act

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today introduced a bill to reauthorize the National Landslide Preparedness Act, which they led into law in 2020, to help communities prepare for and respond to landslides. The bill follows a deadly landslide in Wrangell, Alaska, in November 2023, that killed six people; landslides in Washington state that have closed highways and blocked railways; and hundreds of landslides and mudslides in California following their recent record-setting rainstorms.  

“As we mourn the loss of the Alaskans who tragically passed when a 4,000-foot-long landslide barreled into homes off of Wrangell’s Zimovia Highway, we must do everything we can to protect our communities and our people from these deadly disasters,” Murkowski said. “Too many communities in Alaska and across the nation face significant landslide hazards, but we don’t have sufficient monitors, data, baselines, or forecasting capabilities to warn residents when they are in danger. That’s why Senator Cantwell and I are leading this reauthorization—to keep important federal programs going, and to continue to help communities improve emergency preparedness, create important response plans, and ultimately save lives.”

“Since we passed this bill, federal agencies have improved mapping technologies and gained a better understanding of the landslide risks facing our communities,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Now, nearly a decade since the devastating Oso landslide, and as more wildfires and atmospheric river events make landslides more likely, we must reauthorize and update these federal programs to help keep communities safe.”

Background: The bill reauthorizes the National Landslide Preparedness Act for 10 years, through Fiscal Year 2034. The National Landslide Preparedness Act previously authorized USGS’ Hazards Reduction Program to include the creation of a national strategy, a national landslide hazards database, and a debris flow early warning system. The measure also created the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Landslide Hazards, a federal Advisory Committee on Landslides, and two grant programs.

The Alaskans who lost their lives in Wrangell’s deadly landslide were 65-year-old Otto Florshutz and four members of the Heller family – 44-year-old Timothy, 36-year-old Beth, 16-year-old Mara, and 11-year-old Kara. The body of 12-year-old Derek Heller was never found. The Wrangell landslide followed deadly landslides that occurred in Sitka in 2015 and Haines in 2020.

In addition to her authorizing legislation, Murkowski, a senior appropriator, has secured more than $14 million in federal funding over the past three years for landslides-related work in Alaska, including for Barry Arm and Prince William Sound.