County officials have said that they weren’t aware of a 15-year-old report that warned about the risks of a catastrophic landslide in their Washington state region. But in the wake of a March 22 landslide that killed at least 41 people in Snohomish County, a Wall Street Journal story (“Residents Not Told About Landslide Warning,” 4/30/14) puts those claims in doubt.
According to the article, after a smaller landslide in 2006, a county engineering geologist, in his preparation of a presentation for homeowners, referred to a 1999 report that warned of major geological risks in the region, and real chances of a major catastrophic event at the site of the deadly landslide earlier this year.
That could present a liability problem in the months ahead. As the Wall Street Journal explained, some county officials have previously said they didn’t have any information about the 1999 report or were unaware of its existence. Other officials, including the geologist who referred to the report in his 2006 homeowner presentation, could not be reached for comment. But a county spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal that experts and officials continue to review “the full history” of the March 22 landslide in an ongoing investigation.
Daniel Miller, a Seattle geomorphologist, co-authored the 1999 report involving the Stealhead Haven region, and he told the newspaper that he thought homebuilders should have stopped construction there because of the risks. Construction continued after the 2006 slide, the story explained.