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house Bill H.R. 1261

Should the Feds Invest More Money in Landslide Research?

Argument in favor

The USGS’s Landslide Hazard Program is underfunded and consequently unable to take advantage of new technologies that can improve landslide understanding. This bill helps address this by increasing funding for landslide research and giving both the USGS and NSF the authority to provide grants for landslide research.

jimK's Opinion
···
06/03/2019
Efforts to understand landslide risks, identify where the risks are greatest and to nationally catalog the geography of greatest risks are all good science. Per the CBO estimates, the costs are minor when compared to the dollar and humanitarian costs of landslides in populated areas. I also believe that if someone chooses to build in a previously identified high risk area, it should be made clear that they, alone, would bear any financial costs associated with landslide damage.
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Jugbo's Opinion
···
06/03/2019
Yes, but be careful they might accidentally research climate change in the process.
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burrkitty's Opinion
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06/03/2019
It would also be useful if ANYONE LISTENED TO THE SCIENTISTS WARNINGS. Almost every multiple fatality landslide since well before the Oso slide, the geologists gave multiple warnings, sometimes decades beforehand, that the land was unstable and that catastrophic slope failures were going to occur. As a geologist, it’s really hard to work up any sympathy when people don’t listen to us. The Oso slide they warned them 40 years ahead of time before any houses were even built in the area that that slope was going to fail and that it was only a matter of time before it failed and that it would fail catastrophically and that area had a long history of catastrophic failure and they went ahead and build houses there anyway. Then in 2014 the crazy weather that year started up and the geologists went out there and said look you need to leave it’s not safe for you to stay here and people stayed anyway. and then they died. And it’s really hard to feel any sympathy. Once you learn to recognize slope failure it is really easy to spot and if we tell you that land is gonna slide, we’re not fucking around. And it happens in Arkansas all the time. We have loads of landslides all the time it’s just part of the terrain here. And if we tell you don’t cut that bank back don’t cut into the side of the hillside or you’re going to undermine that hillside it’s going to come down on your house, how about fucking not doing it. Or if we tell you to put the road on the other side of the valley and not to cut into the rock units there because they are facing the wrong way and you decide to put the road on the wrong side anyway don’t be surprised when the landslides come down and block the road. Or when we tell you that that vertical shale cliff line is spalling off and if you put your house that close to it don’t be surprised when a sheet of shale comes off and goes through the back wall of your house. If we tell you it’s not safe to build there, don’t fucking build there. It’s the same thing with building and rebuilding in the flood zone. LEARN TO GET OUT OF THE WAY!
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Argument opposed

Landslides aren’t a problem in all states, so increasing federal funding for research in this are doesn’t make sense. Landslide-prone states already have their own programs for landscape research, so it’d be more efficient for the federal government to fund these existing programs directly, rather than by funding them indirectly via the USGS and NSF.

Cindy's Opinion
···
06/03/2019
No, wind blows it erodes dirt, fires eat away at the bedding then rain comes and washes it away, rocks, trees and debris are heavy. Research done! Don’t waste more taxpayer money!!!!!
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John's Opinion
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06/03/2019
A waste of money. Unstable ground + gravity = landslide. You don’t need a government bill for this.
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Colleen's Opinion
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06/03/2019
Landslides should be a state issue. They are the ones that should shore up the land and protect roads from being dumped on. As for the peapole that choose to purchase their homes in areas noted for landslides, either pay a higher premium or just don’t build there
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Research and Technology
      Committee on Natural Resources
      Energy and Mineral Resources
      Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
    IntroducedFebruary 14th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 1261?

This bill — the National Landslide Preparedness Act — would increase funding for the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Landslide Hazards Reduction Program to identify and understand landslide hazards and risks, reduce losses from landslides, protect communities at risk of landslide hazards and help improve communication and emergency preparedness.

In the service of these aims, the USGS would:

  • Develop and publish a national strategy for landslide hazards, risk reduction, and response in the United States (including U.S. 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.

This bill would also direct the establishment of an Advisory Committee on Landslides. This committee would be comprised of no fewer than 11 members, including representatives of states, territories, tribes, research institutions and higher education institutions, industry standards development organizations and emergency management agencies at the state, territorial, local and tribal levels. The committee would be responsible for making recommendations regarding landslide hazard and risk reduction and planning; tools for communities to address landslides; and landslide research.

The USGS could provide grants to state, territorial, local and tribal governments to research, map, assess and collect data on landslide hazards. Additionally, the National Science Foundation (NSF) could provide grants to eligible entities for landslide research.

The USGS would also 1) establish the 3D Elevation Program and the 3D Elevation Federal Interagency Coordinating Committee and 2) be empowered to make grants and enter into cooperative agreements to facilitate the improvement of nationwide coverage of 3D elevation data.

Impact

Landslide research; landslide mitigation; landslide-prone areas; U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); National Science Foundation (NSF); USGS Landslide Hazard Program; 3D mapping; and landslide researchers.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1261

$308.00 Million
The CBO estimates that this bill would cost $308 million over the 2019-2029 period.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to help local communities prepare for and respond to landslides and other natural hazards by targeting key gaps in current science and mapping that are critical to understanding landslide hazards and risks. This bill was originally drafted in the aftermath of a massive landslide near Oso, Washington on March 22, 2014, that killed 43 people, engulfed 42 homes and severely damaged public infrastructure and private property. Rep. DelBene cited that disaster when she reintroduced this bill:

“I remember vividly the horrors of that tragic scene near Oso which took 43 precious lives and left countless families and a community shattered. This legislation is born out of that experience and would help our region and others around the country be better prepared for the possibility of a landslide. With a commitment to using state-of-the-art technology to target vulnerable terrain, we can take important steps toward saving lives all across the country.”

In a separate statement, Rep. DelBene noted that the Pacific Northwest — where her home region of Washington is located — has been “hit incredibly hard” by landslides. She argued that this bill is needed to make sure tragedies like Oso don’t happen again. Additionally, she noted that this bill could help coordinate work being done at the federal and state levels to everyone’s benefit.

Original House cosponsor Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) adds:

“What happened in Oso was a tragedy that no community should have to experience. I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation to ensure communities in our region -- and around the nation -- are better prepared to mitigate the risks of hazardous landslides. These investments will support efforts to identify risks, protect key infrastructure, and give our communities the critical time and resources they need to save lives and prevent future tragedy.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who is sponsoring this bill’s Senate companion, also cited the Oso landslide when she introduced the Senate bill:

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

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) expressed its support for this bill last Congress. In a letter to Rep. DelBene, the AGU’s CEO and Executive Director, Christine McEntee, wrote:

“As an organization whose mission is to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity, AGU applauds the bill’s overall goals of identifying landslide hazards, increasing preparedness, and reducing losses. Events such as the 2014 landslide in Oso, Washington, which resulted in the deaths of 43 people and destroyed 42 homes, highlight the critical need for further research and mitigation of landslide hazards. AGU also very much supports the Act’s commitment to research, especially the development of priorities for identifying, mapping, and assessing landslide hazards and the creation of a national database that can aid scientists and others in their work. Many of our members are very actively involved in related research, and I am sure they would want to be of service to these efforts as the bill progresses. I feel confident that the National Landslide Preparedness Act will not only protect many lives, but also help reduce the effects landslides have on health, safety, the economy, and the environment.”  

This bill unanimously passed the House Natural Resources Committee with the support of five Democratic House cosponsors. Its Senate companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), has five bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including three Republicans and two Democrats.

Last Congress, the House version of this bill passed the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology with the support of 11 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 10 Democrats and one Republican. Its Senate companion bill had four bipartisan cosponsors, including three Democrats and one Republican, and didn’t receive a committee vote.


Of NoteThe USGS established a Landslides Hazard Program in the seventies to monitor potential landslide risks and produce landslide hazard maps through a dedicated research program. The program continues to operate today, but the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) reports that current funding levels are insufficient for the program to harness new technologies that could substantially improve its maps. In Alaska, an ongoing federal-state partnership has collected high-resolution imagery for about 75% of the state, and some lawmakers — including Rep. DelBene — see the Alaska model as an example for the rest of the U.S. According to an assessment conducted by the USGS and partners, a nationwide high-resolution elevation data mapping program could generate $1.2-13 billion in annual new benefits.

Landslide-prone states, such as Washington and Arizona, have invested in their own landslide research and monitoring programs. In Arizona, the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) works closely with the Arizona Dept. of Emergency Management & Military Affairs to manage the Arizona Statewide Landslide Inventory Database (AzSLID), comprising over 8,000 landscape features compile from AZGS, the USGS, and others, as well as landslides identified via Google Earth’s aerial imagery. In Washington, the state’s Department of Natural Resources has mapped and analyzed data about the landscape in the upper half of the state and requested more money from the state legislature for the coming years.

According to the USGS and National Research Council, landslide hazards claim 25-50 lives each year and cause $1.6-3.2 billion in damages each year in the U.S.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / gece33)

AKA

National Landslide Preparedness Act

Official Title

To establish a national program to identify and reduce losses from landslide hazards, to establish a national 3D Elevation Program, and for other purposes.

    Efforts to understand landslide risks, identify where the risks are greatest and to nationally catalog the geography of greatest risks are all good science. Per the CBO estimates, the costs are minor when compared to the dollar and humanitarian costs of landslides in populated areas. I also believe that if someone chooses to build in a previously identified high risk area, it should be made clear that they, alone, would bear any financial costs associated with landslide damage.
    Like (28)
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    No, wind blows it erodes dirt, fires eat away at the bedding then rain comes and washes it away, rocks, trees and debris are heavy. Research done! Don’t waste more taxpayer money!!!!!
    Like (19)
    Follow
    Share
    Yes, but be careful they might accidentally research climate change in the process.
    Like (20)
    Follow
    Share
    It would also be useful if ANYONE LISTENED TO THE SCIENTISTS WARNINGS. Almost every multiple fatality landslide since well before the Oso slide, the geologists gave multiple warnings, sometimes decades beforehand, that the land was unstable and that catastrophic slope failures were going to occur. As a geologist, it’s really hard to work up any sympathy when people don’t listen to us. The Oso slide they warned them 40 years ahead of time before any houses were even built in the area that that slope was going to fail and that it was only a matter of time before it failed and that it would fail catastrophically and that area had a long history of catastrophic failure and they went ahead and build houses there anyway. Then in 2014 the crazy weather that year started up and the geologists went out there and said look you need to leave it’s not safe for you to stay here and people stayed anyway. and then they died. And it’s really hard to feel any sympathy. Once you learn to recognize slope failure it is really easy to spot and if we tell you that land is gonna slide, we’re not fucking around. And it happens in Arkansas all the time. We have loads of landslides all the time it’s just part of the terrain here. And if we tell you don’t cut that bank back don’t cut into the side of the hillside or you’re going to undermine that hillside it’s going to come down on your house, how about fucking not doing it. Or if we tell you to put the road on the other side of the valley and not to cut into the rock units there because they are facing the wrong way and you decide to put the road on the wrong side anyway don’t be surprised when the landslides come down and block the road. Or when we tell you that that vertical shale cliff line is spalling off and if you put your house that close to it don’t be surprised when a sheet of shale comes off and goes through the back wall of your house. If we tell you it’s not safe to build there, don’t fucking build there. It’s the same thing with building and rebuilding in the flood zone. LEARN TO GET OUT OF THE WAY!
    Like (19)
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    A waste of money. Unstable ground + gravity = landslide. You don’t need a government bill for this.
    Like (17)
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    Landslides should be a state issue. They are the ones that should shore up the land and protect roads from being dumped on. As for the peapole that choose to purchase their homes in areas noted for landslides, either pay a higher premium or just don’t build there
    Like (13)
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    Insurance companies should invest more money in research to reduce their costs. Conservatives state that their is no need for Government and that an unfettered market will address all ailments. When the Government pays to address issues like deadly intersections and deadly roads and flooding, etc., the insurance companies gain profit when there are less claims. Insurance companies never reduce their fees after the DOT has spent billions of dollars and reduced fatalities by 30% in a specific region.
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    No, not an appropriate job for the government.
    Like (10)
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    Anything that can help save our lands, people & property should be done.
    Like (6)
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    Buy insurance. Stop living in dangerous areas and expecting others to pay for your risk.
    Like (6)
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    This is a state issue, not a federal one. We now why landslides happen. Counties and cities need to stop zoning for housing in areas they know are at risk. They make money on tax dollars so they do so. Insurance companies go out of business because they don't refuse to insure in those areas, and then those of us who live far from those areas lose their insurance.
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    It’s important to understand why landslides happen.
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    Don’t need. Bill to understand when things slide
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    The Savory Institute & Holistic Management International have proven techniques to reclaim desserts, rebuild soil, & stop erosion. These guys are the best in the world. People who hate real science won't like them because it requires ruminants. This is where science and reality work hand in hand.
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    WITH GLOBAL WARMING THERE WILL BE MORE AND MORE OF THESE DISASTERS, SO WE NEED TO DO EVERYTHING WE CAN TO MITIGATE THE SEVERITY OF SUCH NATURAL HARMFUL TRADGEDIES.
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    Among the many obvious factors that cause landslides. I ask you to consider the not so obvious, fracking for instance has been linked to earthquakes, should this be looked into in relation to landslides?
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    More wasted money. Build the wall instead
    Like (3)
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    Landslides pose dangers to traffic. Investments in modern technology is a must.
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    Great idea especially since the entire west coast is in the ring of fire
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    Absolutely not, and eliminate this program. This is not an appropriate federal expense.
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