Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Washington mudslide..was clearcutting trees to blame?

A clearcutting operation in the very same place this mudslide took place caused another slide in 2007. The vegetation had not fully grown back. What effect does clearcutting trees have on the environment?

via http://www.uwec.edu/jolhm/eh2/rogge/clear_cutting_and_its_effects_on.htm

Clear cutting and its effects on landslides

Over the years, many case studies have proven that the mass removal of large trees and vegetation has a had a drastic increase on the probability of landslides occurring (Heiken, 1997). These studies have laid out several mechanisms of clear cutting that have contributed to the increase:

Large trees provide strong root structures that penetrate fragile cracks in the underlying bedrock and anchor the soil.

Old growth trees natural have large leaf surface areas which cause much water transfer. The water is drawn up from the soil and eventually transpired back to the atmosphere.

Forests create a canopy of foliage high up in the air to help dissipate rain fall over large areas.

Heavy logging machinery damages precious topsoil and decreases its ability to absorb water.

Logging slash (leftover tree limbs) or debris blocks natural drainage basins.

Anytime large amounts of vegetation are removed from an area the delicate root systems eventually die off which leaves the soil vulnerable to over saturation.

Above image source: http://landslides.usgs.gov/html_files/landslides/slides/landslideimages.ht

A study done by Richard Meehan was conducted in 1991 and a few of his conclusions were as followed: "The frequency of mass erosion [landslides, debris flows, earthflows, etc] is strongly linked to the type and intensity of land treatment in the basin. Although most mass movements are associated with roads and their drainage systems, many originate on open slopes after logging has raised soil water tables and decreased root strength." [Meehan, 1991 page 194] He also stated that: "The increase in mass movement due to clear cutting varies widely, ranging from 2-4 times in Oregon and Washington...to 31 times in the Queen Charlotte Islands... An increase of 6.6 times...is probably closer to the norm."
(Excellent video explanation here : www.youtube.com/watch?v=3y9RQKgEgTs&feature=youtu.be

via http://www.pcvalaw.com/oso-landslide-similar-2007-event/

Oso Landslide Very Similar To 2007 Event

In 2011, PCVA filed several lawsuits against timber companies and the State Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) to recover for similar damages caused by negligent timber practices. Experts retained by PCVA agree that landslides and mudslides occur when timber is harvested on steep slopes in areas of unstable land, heavy rainfall, and defective drainage.

Such negligent timber practices were the result of a mudslide that destroyed the Ranch House BBQ restaurant in 2007. There, DNR agreed to settle the lawsuit for $800,000. Thankfully, the case involved only property and business damages, and not personal injury or wrongful death. More can be read about the settlement here [http://www.theolympian.com/2010/04/23/1216014/state-to-pay-ranch-house.html].

PCVA is currently awaiting an important decision from the Washington State Supreme Court in the several cases filed in 2011. The decision will have an impact on where lawsuits for property damages can be filed. Oral arguments were heard in the spring of 2013 and a should be released shortly.

Washington law is clear that those who manage timber owe landowners a duty of care to prevent foreseeable damage to property and person. The recent mudslides along Highway 530 near OSO in Snohomish County underscore exactly how negligent timber practices can lead to catastrophe. PCVA extends their deepest condolences to those families impacted by the recent mudslides.

Fox News

Emergency responders and volunteers were to resume search operations Tuesday morning and attempt to narrow down the number of people unaccounted for following Saturday's massive mudslide in a rural part of Washington state, north of Seattle.

Late Monday, authorities announced that the official death toll had increased to 14 after searchers discovered six more bodies in the rubble.

The main focus of the search operations has been to pin down the exact number of people unaccounted for after the disaster. Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington told reporters late Monday that officials were working off a potential list of 176 people, but he stressed that authorities believed that included many duplicate names.

"I believe very strongly [176] is not a number we're going to see in fatalities," Pennington said. "I believe it's going to drop dramatically." However, other authorities said they have not been able to determine whether there were multiple calls about the same missing person.

The 1-square-mile mudslide struck Saturday morning near the town of Oso in Snohomish County. Authorities have described the search for additional survivors to be "grim" as crews battle uneven ground and rising waters. Monday’s search included specially trained dogs, firefighters, law enforcement, aircraft and search-and-rescue teams. Heavy equipment from the Washington State Department of Transportation helped to move trees, boulders and earth.

"I’m very disappointed to tell you that we didn’t find any sign of any survivors, and we found no survivors today,” Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots Monday evening.

Pennington gave his own somber diagnosis, saying ""Most of us in these communities do not believe we'll find anyone alive." However, Pennington then added "I'm a man of faith and I believe in miracles."


  1. Get ready taxpayers, because the WA DNR is going to be paying 100s of millions of dollars in the lawsuits that are brewing. The area was clearcut multiple times over many years, PERIOD, but the logging companies won't be paying the bill, you Republicans who bray endlessly about big govt, but let corporate land-destroyers run amok, YOU will be paying the bill, so open your wallets. Maybe someday you'll understand how the world really works.

    1. I agree with you though my concerns are for lives lost and the destruction of our environment. I could care less about the financial implications. Don't feed the system...with tax money, the purchase of goods, etc.

    2. Republicans? Democrats? It doesn't matter.

      At this point they're ALL bankrolled by the same financial interests.
      And as long as we all continue to play the divide-and-conquer game of partisan politics, the longer we will ALL suffer, and continue to lose what few fragile freedoms we have left.

    3. Ya right! Maybe in some fairytale world! Sorry but that's not how the real world works, and I'm going to assume your a Republican, who always seem to want to deflect any kind of attention or resonsilbility. Do you think Bush gave a damn about the environment? I don't think so!

    4. Politics have nothing to do with this disaster. GREED does! Period.

  2. Watch this presentation detailing clearcutting operations directly above the slide area, in the years leading up to this disaster. This is VERY damning evidence, and indicates GROSS NEGLIGENCE, if not far worse, on the part of the parties involved in these operations.

    This gentleman did an incredibly good job with this presentation.


    1. This video provides an excellent explanation of what happened. I will add it to this article.Thank you for sharing! That said, Hemp needs to be legalized! It can be used for everything from building a house to a car. Greed is the only reason it was made illegal to begin with. Controlled crops would enable us to leave the trees and forests to grow naturally and things like this wouldn't happen.