Pearson bill would help identify the next Oso or Mount Saint Helens

On Thursday the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee held a public hearing on a measure sponsored by Sen. Kirk Pearson that would establish the Department of Natural Resources as the official depository for a library of LiDAR mapping, which would be accessible to municipalities, disaster-relief workers, builders and the general public.

“It wasn’t long after the disaster in Oso that I was educated about the benefits of LiDAR by our state geologist,” said Pearson, R-Monroe and chair of the committee. “This bill is about using the best technology available, including LiDAR, to create accurate geological maps and make sure there is a central location for our city officials, developers and others to come and see changes in land movement over time.

“Given our state’s vulnerability to mudslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and even tsunamis, this kind of common-sense planning is crucial to protecting property and lives.”

LiDAR technology uses lasers to gauge distances remotely by measuring reflected light. It allows scientists and mapping professionals to examine both natural and man-made environments with pinpoint accuracy.

Under Senate Bill 5088, DNR would be required to use LiDAR and other practical technology to identify and map geological hazards and estimate potential hazard consequences. The bill also would task DNR with coordinating with state and local government agencies to compile existing data, including hazard maps and geotechnical reports, and make that data available to the public.

“This is good policy,” said Pearson. “Using this technology and making the data from it widely available could potentially help us identify the next major mudslide or earthquake, reduce the destruction of property and – most importantly – save lives.”