Washington Commission Urges Statewide Landslide Effort

Dec 15, 2014

A new report said more money is needed for mudslide response and preparation in cases like Oso, depicted above.
Credit Washington State Patrol

The work of an independent commission in response to the Oso landslide in March said more money is needed to prepare for landslides when they do strike.

The commission has 17 recommendations to improve public safety in a state that is dotted with landslide prone slopes. They ranged from improving emergency response to educating the public about landslides.

The report did not assess blame for the deaths in Oso.

When Governor Jay Inslee and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick created the commission in July, they made it clear they would not try to hold anyone accountable for the 43 deaths there. Inslee and Lovick said lawsuits by victims and their survivors would handle that task.

Kevin Ashe is the owner of the IGA grocery store in Darrington. Back in July, he criticized the decision to punt on the question of who did what wrong.

"We're all taught this as kids: When you make a mistake, own up to it. I think people are forgiving and move on. It's only when you make a mistake and push it under the rug, that's when people start to ask questions," Ashe said.

His son-in-law was one of many loggers who used their equipment and ingenuity to pull victims and bodies from the mud. The commission's new report praises the local loggers. It also recommends incorporating skilled volunteers like them into future disaster response efforts.

None of the 12 landslide commissioners were from the local communities most affected by the Oso slide, but they did consult Ashe and other locals. By the time they were putting the final touches on the report earlier this month , Kevin Ashe had warmed up to their efforts.

"On behalf of myself and the community of Darrington, we thank you from the bottoms of our heart," Ashe said.

Only 13 percent of Washington has been mapped for landslide hazards. So, the commission is urging a statewide mapping effort. It has also called for new land use regulations to minimize the risk of walls of mud destroying any more homes or lives. 

Copyright 2014 KUOW