Cantwell Bill to Protect Communities from Landslides Unanimously Passes Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week the U.S. Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that would help communities prepare for and respond to landslides and other natural hazards. The National Landslide Preparedness Act (S. 529) would help protect communities and property, save lives, and improve emergency preparedness and planning by targeting key gaps in current science and mapping that are critical to understanding landslide hazards and risks.

“In 2014, we saw how devastating landslides can be when the Oso landslide tragically killed 43 people and caused millions of dollars in damage,” said Senator Cantwell. “This bill will help keep communities and infrastructure safe by improving preparedness for landslides and other natural hazards.”

On March 22, 2014, a massive landslide near Oso, Washington, killed 43 people, engulfed 42 homes, and severely damaged public infrastructure and private property. This tragedy highlighted the need to close the gaps in science and mapping needed to better understand and prepare for landslide hazards.

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

The bill would also authorize the USGS 3D Elevation Program, which coordinates and funds the collection of elevation data across the country, using enhanced, high-resolution tools. Enhanced elevation data are critical for numerous reasons—to help communities identify, plan for, and respond to natural hazards; to update the nation’s topographical maps; and to inform a myriad of 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.

Senator Cantwell introduced this legislation in February 2019 with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D, WA-01). In April 2019, Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, secured the passage of the legislation through the committee.

In addition to Cantwell, the National Landslide Preparedness Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK). The legislation now moves on to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.