The Quinault Indian Nation has declared a state of emergency due to flooding via a breach in the seawall at Taholah, the tribe announced on March 26.
“We have been experiencing an increasingly dangerous situation with sea level rise and intensified storms,” said Quinault President Fawn Sharp in a statement. “Our people must be protected. We will take whatever measures are necessary to see that they are.”
She declared the emergency on Tuesday night after “high waves and intense winds” caused a breach in the Taholah seawall, destroying a smokehouse, other outbuildings and properties in the lower village, the tribe said. In addition Sharp issued a voluntary evacuation order and requested assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to declare the portion of Taholah that’s in jeopardy to be declared a federal disaster area so it could receive aid.
“Lives as well as property are in imminent danger,” the executive order said. “A state of emergency exists in the tribal village of Taholah, on the Quinault Reservation.”
The Quinault Indian Nation has long been aware of the potential for coastal flooding, with its reservation squarely inside the Pacific Northwest’s official tsunami hazard zone.
The Quinault have spearheaded efforts to get the federal government to weigh traditional indigenous knowledge on a par with modern science, as well.
Earlier this month, Sharp had met with Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell; Congressmen Derek Kilmer and Dave Reichert, and officials from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Quinault Nation said.
“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,” Sharp said.
The Army Corps of Engineers had placed 800 tons of riprap rock, loose stone that can serve as the foundation for a breakwater, in January, in order to reinforce the seawall, but Sharp said the current breach shows that more is necessary.
“It is obvious that Quinault’s coastal defenses desperately require a more permanent fix,” Sharp said in the Nation’s statement.