Senate passes bill for expanded mapping of hazardous areas

OLYMPIA — Lawmakers are laying the groundwork for the Department of Natural Resources to collect better information on landslide-prone areas and to make it more easily available for anyone who wants it.

On Wednesday, the state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill directing DNR to improve its database of geologic hazard maps and ensure the materials are easily accessible by scientists, government agencies and the public.

Senate Bill 5088 clears the way for the agency to develop maps using advanced remote sensing technology known as LiDAR that provides three-dimensional detail about landforms. The bill passed on a 48-0 vote and forwarded to the House for consideration.

The state Department of Natural Resources already has mapped many areas with potential geologic hazards using aerial surveys and topographic maps but not lidar, according to DNR spokesman Joe Smillie.

But the department will need additional funding to hire people to do the work prescribed in the Senate bill.

It is seeking $6.6 million in the next state budget to hire 14 people to collect and analyze LiDAR data. DNR’s Division of Geology and Earth Resources now has two geologists focused on mapping and three on geologic hazards, he said.

“As the unanimous Senate vote shows, DNR has received a great deal of support from the Legislature on this program and are confident it will be funded,” Smillie said.

Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, sponsored the bill in response the March 22, 2014, landslide in Oso, which he said highlighted the need to improve the state’s database of maps showing where geologic hazards might exist.

“This bill could help save lives,” Pearson said in a statement. “By using the best technology available, we can identify these dangers before they cause major harm and destruction.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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