The state Senate voted unanimously Wednesday for a bill requested by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark to use LiDAR technology to develop and catalog detailed maps of Washington’s geologic hazards.

Introduced by Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, Senate Bill 5088 requires DNR to expand LiDAR mapping of geological hazards and provide technical support to counties, cities, and the public to help them understand the data.

“This bill will enhance public safety,” said Commissioner Goldmark. “Expanded use of LiDAR will allow our geologists to develop detailed maps that can be used to identify potential hazards. I appreciate Senator Pearson’s leadership on this critical need for our state.”

Home of the Washington Geological Survey, DNR is responsible for surveying and mapping Washington’s geologic hazards. LiDAR funding is one of the agency’s top priorities for this legislative session.

“After the Oso landslide, we needed to find new ways to provide the best information about geological hazards to the public,” said Pearson. “By centralizing geological information, we can give local governments, developers and the public the tools they need to help protect lives and property against another major disaster.”

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) uses lasers mounted on aircraft to scope topography by measuring reflected light. Those beams of light penetrating through forest canopy, ground cover and human development allow mappers and scientists to see the landforms below with pinpoint accuracy.

A little more than one-fourth of Washington has already been mapped with LiDAR, though much of that was done with lower-quality imaging. DNR will initially target LiDAR mapping efforts at population centers and infrastructure most at risk from landslides and other hazards.

“The better our knowledge of geologic hazards, the better we can prepare to mitigate them,” State Geologist Dave Norman said.

A companion bill (HB1182) is currently under consideration in the House. The Legislature’s two chambers then must reconcile the bills before sending the measure to Gov. Jay Inslee.