10 years since Oso, new fentanyl laws, carbon market linkage, remove studded tires

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A decade later, the memory of the Oso Landslide burns bright

A crowd attends an event at a new memorial park remembering the Oso landslide.

A crowed gathered at the new Oso Slide Memorial Park in Arlington on Friday for a 10-year remembrance of the disaster.

Ten years ago, a tide of earth and debris tore down a hillside near Oso, Wash. It killed 43 people. It destroyed homes and traumatized the community. It is among the state's greatest calamities and the deadliest landslide in U.S. history.

From the new Oso Slide Memorial Park in Arlington on Friday, hundreds of people gathered to reflect on the tragedy and the community’s resilient journey to healing and recovery. New sculptures by artist Tsovinar Muradyan and The Classic Foundry honor the community, the responders, the survivors and the victims.

“You being here today honors those we lost. And it honors the survivors who barely escaped. It honors first responders who never gave up,” said Dayn Brunner, a Snohomish County Fire District commissioner. “We knew we had to find them. We knew we had to get them out. We did. And there were 11 survivors pulled from the landslide. A few of you are here today.”

“I came here yesterday for the first time in eight years,” said Tim Ward, one of those survivors. “I saw where we used to live. That’s where the dogs were. Five bird dogs, a houseful of chickens. Turkeys. We brought the kids out there, the grandkids, the in-laws. Life was good. What I want you to think about is that you have a place to come. To spend time with those you loved and lost.”

Over the decade, state and federal resources to study landslides have improved. The state has multiplied the number of geologists it employs to study landslide risks. The state began its Landslides Hazards Program in 2015, investing $13 million to support it. The U.S. Congress in 2020 passed the National Landslides Preparedness Act to identify and mitigate problem sites nationwide, an effort led by U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene from Washington state’s 1st Congressional District.

And technology has improved. Lidar technology helps researchers see the invisible, piercing vegetation to reveal the geological features of large swaths of land. Slump blocks and scarps are topographical characteristics where landslides have occurred in the past. They are often indistinguishable from the landscape in conventional aerial photography, but they’re easily spotted in lidar imagery. The Washington Geological Survey has nearly completed lidar collection for the entire state. They have also catalogued in detail 35,000 landslides statewide.

"We can see back into the past to see how geology has shaped the landscape," says Washington Geological Survey graphics editor Dan Coe. “Around Oso, we see dozens of past landslides that seem to have behaved similarly, running out quite a long distance. Looking into the past can tell us a lot about the future.”

Read more perspectives on the history, the victims, and the science of the disaster:

Aerial and lidar images show the Oso Landslide disaster area.

At left, aerial images show the contrast between the 2013 pre-event landscape and the 2014 post-event landscape. At right, a lidar image reveals the extraordinary runout of the landslide over the Stillaguamish River and into the residential Steelhead Haven neighborhood. (Images courtesy of the Washington Geological Survey)

Then-President Barack Obama addresses Snohomish County first responders in 2014.

Then-President Barack Obama addresses Snohomish County first responders during a visit to the disaster area on April 22, 2014. (Photo courtesy of The White House)

Fentanyl is deadly. Washington's newest laws respond to the crisis

Gov. Jay Inslee signed several bills Tuesday at the Tulalip Resort and Casino.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed several bills Tuesday at the Tulalip Resort and Casino to respond to the national fentanyl crisis.

After the American Civil War, many of its 860,000 living casualties were treated with morphine. The drug was fairly new and its addictiveness was not yet understood. It was also liberally prescribed. So began America's first opioid addiction crisis.

The drug responsible for the modern crisis is 100 times more potent than morphine. The situation is much more severe.

“Fentanyl is the nuclear weapon of drugs,” says Gov. Jay Inslee.

Inslee and legislators began the legislative session by pitching a comprehensive fentanyl strategy to improve education, prevent overdoses, and expand treatment, recovery supports, and first responder resources.

The bills Inslee signed Tuesday support that comprehensive strategy with a focus on youth and Tribal communities.

Read the full story on Gov. Jay Inslee's Medium

California and Québec agree to explore carbon market linkage with Washington

California, Québec, and Washington agreed this week to explore linkage of their carbon markets. Humans who breathe air rejoiced.

In a carbon market system, corporate emitters bid on ‘allowances’ for greenhouse gas emissions. These markets have put their regions on track to realize ambitious emissions-reduction goals while raising funds to support public transportation, electrification, and other building blocks of a cleaner society.

The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) run by California and Québec hosted its first auction in 2012. Washington state’s program is much younger: its first auction was held February 2023. Linkage would create a much larger and more liquid market, stabilizing prices and likely reducing consumer impact. It would also strengthen a system by which total emissions dwindle with time across a growing portion of the continent.

And linkage would signal that carbon markets are viable and necessary to slow climate change. States like Maryland and New York have been working on their own plans to form or join carbon markets. Washington’s successful linkage would be an encouraging case study for these and other states.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks with Québec Premiere François Legault.

Gov. Jay Inslee met Québec Premiere François Legault last September to discuss climate action, including prospective linkage of their carbon markets.

News you might have missed:

Remove studded tires by March 31

Studded tires must be removed by Sunday, March 31, to avoid a potential fine of $137. The removal date falls on a holiday this year which could mean some shops are closed, so the Washington State Department of Transportation urges travelers to plan ahead now.

Biden cancels student loan debt for 78,000 public workers

President Joe Biden has announced the cancelation of student loan debts for 78,000 public workers eligible for relief under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program after 10 years of public-sector work and steady payments towards their debt.

U.S. SBA announces disaster loan program for WA counties affected by extreme heat in 2023

Small nonfarm businesses in many Washington counties may apply for low-interest federal disaster loans. The program intends to help businesses offset losses from excessive heat last summer in many eastern Washington counties. Eligibility for the program is based on financial impact, not on actual property damage. Visit SBA.gov/disaster for more information, or contact (800) 659-2955 or disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

WSDOT paint maps: the origin story

WSDOT’s novelty weekend travel maps are a huge social media hit. They’re also useful for travelers who wish to arrive to their summer events on-time or dodge the associated traffic. Crafted with creative flair in Microsoft Paint, the maps are usually good for a laugh before reality sets in that traffic will slow as summer events and summer construction heat up together.