Army Corps to fix 600 feet of Taholah seawall

The seawall in Taholah is still standing — for now.

The wall sustained damage during a Tuesday storm, and crews will spend the next 48 hours rebuilding about 600 feet of wall, said Brian Stenehjem of the Army Corps of Engineers.

“A lot of the larger rocks, the toe rock, protecting the wall were removed,” Stenehjem said. “That leaves the wall vulnerable to more erosion during the next storm.”

Without the repairs, the seawall could erode and become about two feet shorter, Stenehjem said. And with a shorter wall, there’s a chance that the lower portion of the Taholah village could see significant flooding next time a storm hits during high tide, officials said.

The 2,000-foot wall, made of large rocks and gravel, separates a row of houses from the often stormy beach. Residents are accustomed to large waves crashing against the wall, but water started spilling over during Tuesday’s storm.

Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, declared a state of emergency after receiving a call from a tribal elder who reported that his small smokehouse had been destroyed by a wave.

“It was stormy and dark, so we weren’t sure exactly what was happening,” Sharp said. “We were worried about the lower village flooding.”

Sharp then issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency.

“The dangerous condition continues and the Taholah seawall is no longer capable of stopping the ocean from advancing into our lower village of Taholah. Lives as well as property are in imminent danger. A state of emergency exists in the tribal village of Taholah, on the Quinault Reservation,” the order read.

Both the local fire and police departments are located about a block away from the seawall, so flooding is a serious threat to both housing and infrastructure, Sharp said.

While Taholah citizens aren’t in immediate danger, Stenehjem said the problem is severe enough that the wall must be fixed as quickly as possible. He anticipates working around the clock until the seawall is fixed.

But the fix is only temporary, Sharp said. She and other Quinault officials have been working on a plan to move the village.

“The village of Taholah is very vulnerable,” Sharp said. “Because of where it’s located, we’re vulnerable to earthquakes, liquefaction and tsunamis.”

While moving an entire village is an immense undertaking, it’s not unprecedented. The Quileute Nation received federal funding in 2012 to move the village of La Push to higher ground. Both Sen. Maria Cantwell former Rep. Norm Dicks, both Washington Democrats, advocated for the legislation. Sharp said she has been working with Cantwell, and Washington Democrats Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Derek Kilmer regarding the Taholah proposal.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time searching for funding, but we’re hoping to get it done in the next few years,” Sharp said.


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