Planning for Natural Hazards in Oregon

To save lives and money, we ask you to support HB 2633.

In January 2010, an earthquake in Haiti killed more than 230,000 people and initially displaced 1.5 million more. Fourteen months later, an earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan claimed 15,884 lives and cost approximately $300 billion. If you think these disasters are oceans away, consider the $70 million the Oregon Department of Forestry spent fighting major wildfires in the summer of 2013 and the 43 people killed in a mudslide along Highway 503 near Oso, WA, in 2014. In addition, the effects of a changing climate are making matters worse for other natural hazards. While the timing of a natural disaster is impossible to predict, local governments can minimize the toll by acting responsibly when planning for future growth. HB 2633A seeks to accomplish this. Here’s what you need to know:

When Oregon’s Land Use Program was established 40 years ago to help local governments make wise decisions with respect to community growth and protecting the state’s natural resources, the citizens of the state crafted the Statewide Planning Goals. Goal 7 is dedicated to natural hazards. While most of the 19 goals have been implemented in state law or agency rule, Goal 7 has never been implemented. This means there are no enforceable requirements that guide local governments on how to treat natural hazards when they are planning for future growth.

Goal 7 encompasses a host of disasters exacerbated by climate change, including coastal and riverine flooding, coastal erosion, landslides and wildfires, as well as tsunamis and earthquakes. It’s time for the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) to implement rules so that natural hazards will be adequately addressed as part of the planning process.

Benefits of implementing Goal 7:

• Saving lives – by reducing the number of structures in hazard areas in the long term.
• Saving money – by reducing the costs associated with structures in hazard areas, including firefighting costs, rebuilding costs and infrastructure costs.
• Planning flexibility – by allowing local governments to correct decisions that do not look so good in hindsight and effectively plan for future events.

The proposed bill has two major parts. First, it requires LCDC to adopt administrative rules implementing Goal 7 for tsunamis, coastal erosion, and landslides and provides some money to accomplish this. These administrative rules will ensure that local governments take these natural hazards into account when they are planning for the future. Second, it directs the Department of Land Conservation and Development to provide guidance to local governments on planning for earthquakes, flooding, and wildfires. This will help local governments minimize plan for natural hazards.

To save lives and money and to provide planning flexibility, we ask you to support HB 2633A.