Washington county delays decision on building ban after deadly mudslide

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 23, 2014 3:04 PM

By Jonathan Kaminsky

OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - A Washington state county that was the scene of a deadly mudslide last month that killed at least 41 people pushed back a decision on Wednesday on a proposed six-month ban on new construction in landslide-prone areas.

The decision to delay action came after a councilman raised concerns that the moratorium could affect rebuilding efforts of people whose homes were flooded, but not destroyed, as a result of the mudslide.

The five-member Snohomish County Council voted unanimously to table the issue of whether to impose a moratorium on construction within a half-mile of landslide hazard areas defined by the county, opting to take up the matter next Monday.

A rain-soaked hillside collapsed above the Stillaguamish River on March 22 unleashing a torrent of mud that swallowed up a stretch of state highway and about three dozen homes near the small community of Oso, about 55 miles northeast of Seattle.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office said the remains of 41 victims had been recovered from the slide that buried the river valley neighborhood in the Cascade mountain foothills.

U.S. President Barack Obama visited the site on Tuesday, offering condolences to the families of victims, encouragement to rescue workers and promises of government support.

The proposed moratorium, which does not include projects already permitted, is meant to give officials time to assess risks and develop new policies as needed.

(Additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Andrew Hay)