Courtesy Quinault Indian Nation
Officials survey the damage that storm waves did to a portion of the seawall that protects the Quinault town of Taholah from the ocean, on March 25.

Quinault President Fawn Sharp Heads to D.C. to Lobby for Flood Protections

Richard Walker

Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp is scheduled to testify on April 8 before the House Committee on Appropriations’ Interior Subcommittee regarding the growing inadequacy of a seawall that was breached by storm waves at about 7 p.m. on March 25.

Those waves—pushed over the wall by high tides and storm winds—damaged two buildings and flooded several homes in a lower section of the Quinault town of Taholah, a scenic village where the Quinault River flows into the Pacific. The breach and damage prompted Sharp to declare a state of emergency on the reservation.

RELATED: Quinault Nation Declares State of Emergency After Taholah Seawall Breach

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reinforced 600 feet of the 1,160-foot-long seawall, finishing at about 2 a.m. on March 30. It wasn’t the first time the seawall has been breached, and according to a spokesman in Sharp’s office, Quinault officials are concerned it could happen again—with tragic consequences.

“[The] seawall is no longer capable of stopping the ocean from advancing into our lower village of Taholah,” Sharp said.

Sharp will ask Congress for funding for a stronger seawall and planning for the possible relocation of the lower village. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Taholah has 942 residents, of which 500 live in the lower village. Taholah is the seat of Quinault’s government, and the town has cultural services, public services, schools, restaurants, shops and small businesses.

Elevation ranges from seven to 21 feet above sea level. Some of the storm waves battering the Quinault coast on March 29–30 measured 14 feet, according to the spokesman in Sharp’s office. Quinault and the Corps of Engineers worked quickly to fix the breach and keep high waves from encroaching into the lower village. Sharp declared a state of emergency, issued a voluntary evacuation order and asked FEMA for help.


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