First public meeting to discuss Oso mudslide set for Aug. 22

OSO — A dozen experts appointed to an independent commission will convene the first of 10 public meetings on Aug. 22 to consider the emergency response and land-use decisions surrounding the catastrophic Oso mudslide.

The first meeting will occur five months to the day after the disaster that killed 43 people. The schedule was announced Friday.

Panelists have backgrounds in geology, land-use planning, public safety and other relevant fields and plan to visit the site before the first meeting.

They have a Dec. 15 deadline to produce a report for the state and Snohomish County. Their mission includes studying land-use planning in areas at high risk of landslides.

“We have an awful lot to do in a very short period of time,” said Kathy Lombardo, a geologist who leads the group.

The March 22 mudslide sent a mountainside cascading through the Stillaguamish Valley. It buried 40 homes in a rural neighborhood and destroyed portions of Highway 530. Searchers recovered the remains of the final victim, Kris Regelbrugge, on July 22.

Separately, an organization of geologists and engineers released a report last month that concluded the deadly slide was largely the result of conditions created by a smaller landslide in 2006. The earlier slide blocked the North Fork Stillaguamish River but caused no injuries and stopped short of homes. The scientists did not cite a single cause but noted unusual amounts of rain had inundated the soil.

The state and county landslide commission has a broader mission, though it won’t be looking to cast blame for past decisions about land use. That’s a topic surfacing in civil claims and lawsuits filed by landslide survivors and family members of the dead.

Meetings of the Joint S.R. 530 Landslide Commission are scheduled through Dec. 2 at irregular intervals and on different days of the week to accommodate commissioners’ schedules, Lombardo said.

Anybody can attend the meetings, which are subject to state public meeting and records laws.

Initial orders of business come Aug. 22 include figuring out the format of future meetings and how to engage the community.

“I’m actually going to ask that of the commissioners — ‘What are your hopes for this commission?’” Lombardo said.

Lombardo said she and other commissioners are reaching out to landslide survivors and others directly affected to learn what they would like to see from their efforts.

The three-hour commission meetings will allow for some public input, she said.

Work will be coordinated by the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, a public policy institute based at the University of Washington and Washington State University.

The commission plans to share relevant documents on its website.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Meetings

An independent commission formed to examine the response to the March 22 Oso mudslide has scheduled 10 public meetings. Unless otherwise noted, all meetings are scheduled in the Everett Community Center’s Port Gardner Room, 3900 Broadway, Everett, WA 98201.

Aug. 22: noon to 3:30 p.m. Preceded by a site tour in Oso, details to be determined.

Aug. 28, 5-8 p.m.

Sept. 10, 5-8 p.m.

Sept. 18, 5-8 p.m., meeting location to be decided.

Sept. 30, 6-9 p.m.

Oct. 2, 5-8 p.m.

Oct. 13, 5-8 p.m.

Oct. 20, 5-8 p.m.

Nov. 4, 5-8 p.m.

Dec. 2, 5-8 p.m.

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