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Kirkland News Room

City Assessing Risks from Landslides and Geologic Hazards through State-of-the-Art Mapping Program

Contact: Paul Stewart
Department: Planning and Building Department
Phone: 425-587-3227

KIRKLAND, Wash. – The City of Kirkland Planning Department this week launched a website and survey form dedicated to the City’s geohazard mapping initiative, a new integrated mapping approach that will better depict potential seismic and landslide hazard areas in the City. The mapping project is currently underway and is expected to be complete in early 2017. Funded by the City Council in 2016, the effort is a collaboration with the University of Washington’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences GeoMapNW Center and Kirkland citizens to remap the entire city. The GeoMap NW team has been in the field collecting data since the beginning of August and now the City is asking residents to join the effort to collect data on previous landslide, seismic and groundwater activity to form a more complete database. The cutting edge technology used in the project will put Kirkland in the forefront of geohazard mapping and will expand previous information for public and private development projects throughout the City.

“The technology we are using to upgrade our seismic and landslide hazard maps is a significant leap from what we could do previously,” said Kirkland’s Deputy Planning and Building Director Paul Stewart. “It’s almost like we now have X-ray vision into the City’s geologic history. We won’t be able to predict the future, but the new data will greatly enhance our understanding of potential risks from geologic hazards.”

Along with field mapping, GeoMapNW’s new integrated mapping approach uses a Light Detection and Ranging system referred to as LiDAR. LiDAR is like RADAR except it uses lasers instead of radio waves, firing off bursts of light in quick succession to collect precise distance measurements in order to produce a three-dimensional map. LiDAR has been used in the City since 2001, but GeoMapNW’s technology enhancements bring eight-times the resolution to the mapping system.

City engineers, planners and emergency managers will use this new detailed information for projects like suitability and infiltration studies, seismic hazard assessments, hazard mitigation strategies, and prioritizing facility upgrades. The City’s Zoning Code requires that any proposed development within these areas be studied by a qualified geotechnical expert to address risks and make recommendations on construction.

“The GeoMapNW team field work will give us a great baseline but residents in the community can be a valuable asset filling in information on places we may not know about,” Stewart noted. “Local knowledge of historical landslides, ground or building cracks, or groundwater seepage can greatly enhance our mapping effort.”

The City is looking to property owners, decision makers and emergency managers to take part in the survey to collect information on:
• previous landslide activity
• ground or building cracks
• groundwater seepage
• any geotechnical reports that they may have on their property.

Maps currently exist on the City website depicting “Seismic Hazards” and “Landslide and Erosion Hazards.” These maps are a general guide to indicate the likely presence of unstable conditions, but they were created in the early 1990’s.

“When we publish the new maps in 2017, we will have much more advanced science and technology to better assess and respond to these risks,” Stewart noted.

The Kirkland City Council recognized the need to update and expand the existing maps and has provided funding to create the new state-of-the-art hazard maps and data for the entire City. The Council’s mission is to create a safe community, increase our scientific knowledge and minimize the risks to property and life, making Kirkland a safer place to live.