Wife of Oso victim to state: 'Do everything you can' to prevent slides

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on May 12, 2014 at 6:09 PM

Updated Monday, May 12 at 6:56 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Deborah Durnell said the state of Washington owes its citizens and the victims of the Oso landslide to "do everything you can" to prevent future deadly landslides.

Her husband Tom Durnell died in the March 22 slide.

"The deaths in Oso aren't just statistics to me, they were our friends and neighbors that we continue to grieve for," said Durnell.

She testified in front of the state's Forest Practices Board, an independent body that sets rules for logging and construction in forests.

Durnell is suing the state and Snohomish County.

She said she and her husband did not know they were moving into an area with a history of landslides.

The Oso landslide dominated the board's regularly scheduled May meeting.

During the public hearing portion, Peter Goldman, director of the Washington Forest Law Center called for a moratorium on logging in potential slide zones until an investigation determines if logging played any role in the Oso slide.

"The public wants to know whether there were actions up there that increased the risk of this landslide occurring," said Goldman.

Chair Aaron Everett said it's too soon to know if logging contributed to the slide.

"The board's job today is to understand what we do know and see if there are steps the board should take as precautions, as improvements to our existing process," said Everett.

Everett said new regulations or recommendations could be announced by the board Tuesday.
Members heard testimony calling for better high-resolution mapping, known as lidar, to be done for the entire state to identify future potential slide areas.

Board members learned Monday the exact cause of the slide may never be known.

"We didn't have instruments in the ground at the time the landslide occurred," said USGS geologist Jonathan Godt, "And from an observation standpoint, that opportunity is lost."

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