Oregon had shelved plan warning of landslide danger

Jan 21, 2008 Full story: Statesman Journal

“I bought it a year and a half ago”

State geologists predicted the landslide that crushed homes and severed U.S. 30 west of Clatskanie, but the state shelved the information to avoid clashes with land developers, those who worked on the maps and ... via Statesman Journal

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Oregon is Disgusting

United States

#1 Jan 21, 2008
Oregon had shelved plan warning of landslide danger
The Associated Press
January 21, 2008
PORTLAND — State geologists predicted the landslide that crushed homes and severed U.S. 30 west of Clatskanie, but the state shelved the information to avoid clashes with land developers, those who worked on the maps and others say.
“The information is out there — it’s just not being used,” said Scott Burns, a professor at Portland State University and authority on landslides.“It’s a pity, because if we get more of these big storms, we’re going to have more debris flows and more people in danger.”
The prediction was contained in landslide hazard maps that state geologists drew up for all of western Oregon after landslides killed five people in 1996, The Oregonian reported.
The maps labeled most of the area in last month’s slide as posing “very high” or “extreme” landslide hazard.
They showed a dangerous area beginning from Oregon State University clear-cuts down to an old earthen railroad crossing that allowed mud and debris to collect for more than a week, forming a lake. The debris broke loose Dec. 11, flooding homes in the danger zone.
Homeowners apparently were not aware of the maps the state paid $250,000 to draw up and state foresters who reviewed logging above the homes knew about the maps but did not refer to them, they said.
Other risk areas include Portland’s West Hills, the Coast Range and parts of southwest Oregon.
A state board quietly withdrew the maps from official use in 2003 after city and county officials complained that they might restrict development, according to state documents and interviews by the newspaper.
“I bought it a year and a half ago,” Mike Roubal said of his family’s home west of Clatskanie, buried almost to its eaves by the Dec. 11 landslide. He evacuated in time but lost several uninsured vehicles, and is now seeking state and federal assistance.
“I wouldn’t have bought it if I would have known there was this kind of risk.”
A few cities and counties refer to the landslide maps when permitting new development, but many do not.
The lack of action reflects widespread local reluctance to control development or take other action to reduce risk from hazards, said Gail Achterman, chairwoman of the Oregon Transportation Commission, who also headed a task force on landslide risk.
“The hard policy decisions have simply not been made,” she said.“It’s easier to do nothing and wait for FEMA to bail you out.”
When scientists checked the maps against evidence of historic landslides, they found that the maps correctly identified more than 90 percent of the areas buried in slide debris.
The area west of Clatskanie, around Woodson, was one area checked to verify the accuracy of the maps, said John Hofmeister, who led the mapping for the state Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.
A 1933 landslide killed four people about a half mile from where the slide struck last month.“I figured it would happen there again, and it did,” Hofmeister said.
“It really pulls at my gut” that the information isn’t widely available, said Hofmeister, who now runs a startup energy company.“It’s not a good allocation of resources to have things like this get developed and get dropped for political reasons.”

The maps are now available only on an obscure state Web site - www.coastalatlas.net - that Hofmeister and another state employee worked on at night and on weekends.“Even geotechnical engineers don’t know it’s there,” he said.
Columbia County, where Woodson is, might be one of the few counties that refers to the maps when considering new development. But Glen Higgins, the planning director, said there has been no drive to alert people whose homes may already be in danger.
Oregon is Disgusting

United States

#2 Jan 21, 2008
How much of Oregon is landslide prone? It rains and then it rains and then it rains some more. How much rain can any piece of land take?

Much of Oregon is hilly with ugly developments built on hillsides. How much is prone to sliding? Are houses that slide insured since the slide is likely caused by water?

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