Landslides and Mudslides — a deeper analysis

Prof. Rob Olshansky wrote in to provide some context for landslides and mudslides. He has been studying them for years and has published several papers on the topic. In reviewing the issues over the years he said:

*** there are two main points to all of this. First, landslide insurance does not exist (except for the “mudslide” provision in NFIP, a curiosity which is explained in my longer law review paper). This means that when a landslide occurs, everyone sues everyone (of course, it’s worse if deaths are involved). For local governments, it ends up being distracting and expensive, whether or not they are at fault. Hence, my message to local governments is: do everything you can to avoid damaging landslides in your jurisdiction. The Oso landslide would be my illustration of what I mean by this.

Second, if a landslide affects an existing subdivision, there are very few options. It’s hard to prevent others from building on lots in the subdivision. And it’s hard to fix the slide: everyone thinks that someone else should pay. My paper on landslide hazard mitigation looks at several possible financing structures (with estimates of dollar amounts at the time), including some ways to lure the insurers back into the game.  But landslides are too infrequent to attract sustained policy attention or the sustained attention of insurers, so nothing changes.

A special thanks to Rob Olshansky, who is Head of the Dept. of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Note: He send the Diva copies of 3 of his published papers. To avoid copyright violations, I have not uploaded them to this site. But I can share them with a selected no. of interested persons, if the intended use is for educational purposes. Contact me directly if you want to see them.


Another Note:  For those who want some basic information about landslides, as well as links to additional resources, check out the US Geological Survey and its Landslides 101 page.


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