TAHOLAH — The Quinault Indian Nation is asking the federal government for help to forestall encroachment of the ocean in the lower portions of Taholah.
On Wednesday the tribe declared a state of emergency, saying that due to a breach in the Taholah seawall Tuesday night a smokehouse, other outbuildings and property in the lower village were damaged and that a portion of the village is in danger of flooding. Wednesday afternoon, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer official said there wasn’t actually a breach, but others from the Corps would be coming to Taholah to assess the problem.
Damage was caused by high waves and intense winds, a Quinault news release states. Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation, issued a voluntary evacuation order in the area and filed a request with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that the portion of Taholah in danger of being flooded and otherwise in danger from the situation be declared a federal disaster area and be made available for disaster support.
Sharp issued a tribal executive order stating that “the dangerous condition continues and that the Taholah seawall is no longer capable of stopping the ocean from advancing into our lower village of Taholah.”
The executive order stated, “Lives as well as property are in imminent danger. A state of emergency exists in the tribal village of Taholah, on the Quinault Reservation.”
For some time now, tribal officials have been talking about moving the lowest parts of the village, which are nearest to the ocean, to higher ground and seeking federal funding.
Sharp met with congressional officials, including Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Congressmen Derek Kilmer and Dave Reichert as well as officials from the Army Corps earlier this month. “All of these officials were very supportive of our long term plans related to protection of our people from these ongoing dangerous conditions and the funding that will be required to achieve that protection on a permanent basis.”
Temporary mitigation efforts to reinforce the seawall were taken in January, when the Corps of Engineers placed 800 tons of riprap rock.
“It is obvious that Quinault’s coastal defenses desperately require a more permanent fix,” said Sharp.
“We have been experiencing an increasingly dangerous situation with sea level rise and intensified storms. Our people must be protected. We will take whatever measures are necessary to see that they are,” said Sharp.