15 January 2021

The US National Landslide Preparedness Act

Posted by Dave Petley

The US National Landslide Preparedness Act

Amongst the remarkable political shenanigans in the United States in recent weeks, in which the term landslide has been used in an entirely different context, there has been one piece of good news.  Earlier this week the President signed into law  H.R. 8810, the National Landslide Preparedness Act.

This piece of legislation, initially proposed by Representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA), establishing a National Landslide Hazards Reduction Program in the USGS, with the aim of improving identification and understanding of landslide risks; of protecting communities; of saving lives and reducing property losses; and of improving emergency preparedness.  This is a tremendous and very important step forwards, finally recognising at a federal level landslides as a significant hazard and establishing the means to start to improve their management.

The congress.gov website has a nice summary of the key provisions of the National Landslide Preparedness Act:-

The USGS shall, among other things

  • develop and publish a national strategy for landslide hazards, risk reduction, and response in the United States (including territories);
  • develop and maintain a publicly accessible national landslide hazard and risk inventory database;
  • expand the early warning system for debris flow; and
  • establish emergency response procedures for the rapid deployment of federal scientists, equipment, and services to areas impacted by a significant landslide event.

The USGS may provide grants to research, map, assess, and collect data on landslide hazards.

The National Science Foundation may provide grants to eligible entities for landslide research.

The USGS shall establish the 3D Elevation Program and the 3D Elevation Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee, and (2) may make grants and enter into cooperative agreements to facilitate the improvement of nationwide coverage of 3D elevation data.

There is a host of good things about this, including the development of a national strategy and the establishment of a LIDAR based programme to generate digital elevation data.

The timing is very pertinent, as earlier this week a really significant rainfall event occurred in the Pacific Northwest, triggering many landslides.  The most significant appears to have occurred close to Dodson in Oregon, where a large debris flow killed a motorist, Jennifer Moore.  A search is underway to try to recover her remains.  Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office has tweeted this image of the site:-

The fatal landslide in Dodson County, Oregon, which illustrates the need for the National Landslide Preparedness Act

The fatal landslide in Dodson County, Oregon, which illustrates the need for the National Landslide Preparedness Act. Image tweeted by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office