Geoscience Policy Monthly Review
march 2017

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natural hazards

Senate and House introduce landslide bills to promote research and save lives

March 22, 2017

Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the bipartisan National Landslide Preparation Act (S.698) on March 22.

The bill directs the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to establish a National Landslide Hazards Reduction Program. This program would identify and characterize landslide risks, and work to improve emergency preparedness.  USGS would also establish a Cooperative Landslide Hazard Mapping and Assessment Program to provide grants to state, local, and tribal governments to study landslide hazards. The bill re-authorizes the USGS 3D-elevation program (3DEP) to better characterize landslide-prone regions. The 3DEP initiative collects high-resolution topographic data covering the U.S. that would be used to create and inform city planning and hazard risk assessment activities.

S.698 is being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. It is matched on the House side by H.R.1675, which was introduced by Representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1) on March 22. The House bill is being reviewed by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.


Bill introduced to prepare northwest for next earthquake

March 27, 2017

The Pacific Northwest Earthquake Preparedness Act (H.R.654) moved a step closer to becoming law when the bill passed the House on March 27. Representative Pete DeFazio (D-OR-4) introduced H.R.654 on January 24.

The bill would establish an earthquake and tsunami inter-agency task force to create a strategy to approach earthquake and tsunami preparedness. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, under this bill, would develop an early warning system plan for potential earthquakes resulting from the future rupture of the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The Senate received the bill and referred it to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on March 28.


Workshop on wildfire management highlights areas for improvement

March 27, 2017

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a workshop on long-term approaches for wildfire management on March 27.

The workshop looked at the costs of wildfires, not only in terms of the financial costs of fire suppression and rehabilitation of property and ecosystems, but also in terms of the loss of lives, effects on physical health and local economies, and impacts of cascading events, such as landslides and flooding.

One of the strategies discussed in the workshop involved the creation of a national fire hazard zone map, similar to FEMA’s flood zone maps, to assist with regional planning and establishing adequate insurance policies for at-risk areas.

These maps could be created and utilized by the Forest Service in conducting activities such as controlled burns. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection already publishes similar maps for moderate, high, and very high risk zones using weather, fuels, and historical trends. The maps are used in local planning to ensure new structures are more fire-resistant.

The workshop also focused on expanding the current understanding of forest fires to recognize their potential damage and the role of the urban-wildland interface, among other factors, in their development. Workshop participants said there is still much more research to be done before we can fully comprehend these events.

Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine