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Logging near Oso investigated as possible factor in deadly mudslide

This March 24, 2014 aerial photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey show the extent and impacts from the March 22 mudslide near Arlington in northwest Washington state. The slide destroyed a rural community, likely killing at least 24, and left scores missing. The aerial survey was conducted by Washington State departments of Transportation and Natural Resources, the USGS and the King County Sheriff's Office. (AP Photo/King County Sheriff, Air Support Unit)

Did logging near the community of Oso have anything to do with Saturday’s landslide?

Seattle Times reporter Mike Baker has been looking into the history of logging in the area and found that a 2004 clear-cut went beyond the permitted area.

But what surprised him most was the low-tech the mapping process.

“They have a map included with the permit but it’s this tiny map that they’ve hand-drawn in a triangle, where they’re going to make the cut,” explained Baker. And when the permit was rejected they came back, using the exact same map, using a pen to cross out where they weren’t going to cut anymore. So really, it seems it’s an inexact process.”

Not a single GPS reference. It was clear state foresters didn’t know there would been a potential violation.

“You know the state forester that I spoke with yesterday, he basically said when he started looking at the maps, he was surprised and immediately started collecting the documents and figure out what was going on,” said Baker.

The big question: If they determined that the logging had strayed into this sensitive area, would that trigger a warning to the people below?

“That’s not clear,” he answered. “Certainly I think the state pursued some sort of fine or violations. The other aspect, is this zone isn’t necessarily off limits to logging there were just a lot of very strict rules in place.”

Baker said while the logging restrictions were clearly intended to protect the area from landslides – it’s unlikely it crossed anyone’s mind that we’d be talking about a slide as massive as what happened Saturday.

Find more:
Video: Is clear cutting to blame for Oso mudslide?
Dave Ross: Why was there no warning?
Seismic readings show Oso had 2 mudslides

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