Introduction

A recent NRC report estimated the annual national loss due to landslides to approach $2 billion (NRC, 1996). The magnitude of this loss, and the stipulation by the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (Stafford Act) of the responsibility of the Director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for landslide hazard warning, provides a basis for the USGS to assume a prominent leadership role in national landslide hazard mitigation. The USGS Landslide Program has hitherto been funded at a modest level, but impetus for an increased emphasis on this program was provided by the House Report accompanying the Interior Appropriations Bill for FY2000. This report directed the USGS to develop a comprehensive strategy to address landslide problems. During 1999–2000 the USGS convened a series of workshops and meetings to plan and develop a national strategy, resulting in the compilation of U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 00–450, “National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy—A Framework for Loss Reduction” (Spiker and Gori, 2000). This report proposed a national strategy based on partnerships between the USGS, as the responsible federal agency, with an array of federal, state, local, community, and industry partners. This partnership strategy envisioned a substantially increased federal investment for the USGS Landslide Hazards Program, requiring almost an order of magnitude increase from the present annual funding level of $2.6 million to at least $20 million. Of this total, $10 million would support increased USGS activities and $10 million would be provided to partners.

To be assured that the strategy advanced by the USGS was the most appropriate approach to this problem, the USGS requested the National Academies to conduct a review with the following charge:

Statement of Task

“In response to a request from the U.S. Geological Survey, an ad hoc committee established under the auspices of the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources will provide advice regarding the optimum approaches and strategies that could be applied to implement federal-state-local-private partnerships to mitigate the effects of landslides and other ground failures. The study committee will:

  • Assess the approach described in USGS Open-file Report 00–450, National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy, comment on the federal-state-local-private partnership concept described in that report, and evaluate whether all the appropriate partners that should be involved in a national landslide hazard mitigation strategy are identified. This assessment should be provided in the form of a brief interim report.

  • Consider the potential roles for each of the federal, state, local, and private sectors, and provide advice regarding implementation and funding strategies to stimulate productive, effective, coordinated partnerships.

As part of its analysis, the committee will provide an overview of research priorities required to support the activities of each sector.”

This interim report is presented in response to the request for the committee to



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Assessment of Proposed Partnerships to Implement a National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy: Interim Report Introduction A recent NRC report estimated the annual national loss due to landslides to approach $2 billion (NRC, 1996). The magnitude of this loss, and the stipulation by the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (Stafford Act) of the responsibility of the Director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for landslide hazard warning, provides a basis for the USGS to assume a prominent leadership role in national landslide hazard mitigation. The USGS Landslide Program has hitherto been funded at a modest level, but impetus for an increased emphasis on this program was provided by the House Report accompanying the Interior Appropriations Bill for FY2000. This report directed the USGS to develop a comprehensive strategy to address landslide problems. During 1999–2000 the USGS convened a series of workshops and meetings to plan and develop a national strategy, resulting in the compilation of U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 00–450, “National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy—A Framework for Loss Reduction” (Spiker and Gori, 2000). This report proposed a national strategy based on partnerships between the USGS, as the responsible federal agency, with an array of federal, state, local, community, and industry partners. This partnership strategy envisioned a substantially increased federal investment for the USGS Landslide Hazards Program, requiring almost an order of magnitude increase from the present annual funding level of $2.6 million to at least $20 million. Of this total, $10 million would support increased USGS activities and $10 million would be provided to partners. To be assured that the strategy advanced by the USGS was the most appropriate approach to this problem, the USGS requested the National Academies to conduct a review with the following charge: Statement of Task “In response to a request from the U.S. Geological Survey, an ad hoc committee established under the auspices of the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources will provide advice regarding the optimum approaches and strategies that could be applied to implement federal-state-local-private partnerships to mitigate the effects of landslides and other ground failures. The study committee will: Assess the approach described in USGS Open-file Report 00–450, National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy, comment on the federal-state-local-private partnership concept described in that report, and evaluate whether all the appropriate partners that should be involved in a national landslide hazard mitigation strategy are identified. This assessment should be provided in the form of a brief interim report. Consider the potential roles for each of the federal, state, local, and private sectors, and provide advice regarding implementation and funding strategies to stimulate productive, effective, coordinated partnerships. As part of its analysis, the committee will provide an overview of research priorities required to support the activities of each sector.” This interim report is presented in response to the request for the committee to

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Assessment of Proposed Partnerships to Implement a National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy: Interim Report determine “…whether all the appropriate partners that should be involved in a national landslide hazard mitigation program (had) been identified” and to provide interim comments on the proposed partnership strategy. Other aspects of the charge will be addressed in the committee’s final report. The report “National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy—A Framework for Loss Reduction” (Spiker and Gori, 2000) presents an outline of the elements required for a national approach to the problem, with the 10-year goal of reducing the risk of loss of life, injuries, economic costs, and destruction of natural and cultural resources from landslides. The report identifies nine elements of a national landslide hazard mitigation program: (1) research to develop a predictive understanding of landslide processes; (2) hazard mapping to delineate susceptible areas; (3) real-time monitoring of active landslides; (4) loss assessment to determine economic impacts of landslide hazards; (5) information collection, interpretation, and dissemination to provide an effective system for information transfer; (6) guidelines and training for scientists, engineers, and decision makers; (7) public awareness and education; (8) implementation of loss reduction measures; and (9) emergency preparedness, response, and recovery to build resilient communities. The strategy presented by the USGS, and the review presented here, is focused on landslides—downhill earth movements ranging from rock avalanches and debris flows to more slowly-moving earth slides— but recognizing that the strategy provides a framework that could be applied to other ground failure hazards. The partnerships referred to in the USGS strategy document (Spiker and Gori, 2000) are only described in broad outline: Partnerships with state and local governments to assess and map landslide hazards, to be funded through competitive grants ($8 million annual allocation, requiring 30% matching funds). Partnerships with other federal agencies (e.g., National Park Service [NPS], United States Forest Service [USFS], Bureau of Land Management [BLM]) to increase agency capabilities to address landslide hazards ($2 million for USGS participation as requested by other agencies). Partnerships with universities, local governments, and the private sector to support research and implementation efforts ($2 million annually, distributed through competitive grants). The committee concurs that there is a pressing need for a national program to address the deaths (estimated to be 25 to 50 people each year), injuries, property losses, ecological consequences, and economic disruption that are attributable to landslides throughout the United States (Schuster, 1996). Landslide risks are particularly noteworthy in Alaska and Hawaii, the Pacific Coast states, the Appalachian Mountain states, the Rocky Mountain states, and in the island territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Landslides affect individuals through injuries or property loss; private entities that have lost property and suffered business disruption; and state and local governments that have had to rebuild roads, utility systems, and other damaged infrastructure. In addition to the effects in the immediate vicinity of landslides, there are individuals and businesses, often some distance from landslide sites, who are affected by loss of services such as power, water and/or sewer lines as a consequence of landslides. Losses attributable to landslides have been increasing as a result of rapid development within landslide-prone areas, often because of the scenic value of such sites, and because of the increased value of property at risk. Furthermore, landuse activity, such as timber harvesting and access road construction, has led to accelerated landsliding, which has had

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Assessment of Proposed Partnerships to Implement a National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy: Interim Report deleterious effects on downstream aquatic ecosystems and water quality. There has been considerable debate about effective delineation and mitigation measures for such landslides. Reducing risks posed by landslides through appropriate land use, engineering, and other interventions will help protect individuals and property from harm as well as reduce the repair and recovery costs that landslides pose for federal, state, and local governments and private individuals and businesses. The substantial public impacts attributable to landslides provide justification for governmental action to reduce both harmful impacts and costs to government. An effective and coordinated federal effort should build upon existing efforts by federal and state authorities to address these risks by providing leadership, knowledge, and other assistance to institute more effective state and local landslide risk reduction programs. Such efforts could be part of a broader agenda to address risks posed by multiple types of natural hazards, as was proposed as part of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (NRC, 1991).

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