Corps, tribe plan more seawall repair at Taholah

Associated Press
In this photo taken May 28, 2014, James DeLaCruz, an elder with the Quinault Indian Tribe, stands on the Pacific coast of Washington state, near the Quinault village of Taholah. The Corps of Engineers made emergency repairs to the storm-damaged seawall that protects the village in March, 2014, but DeLaCruz says he's worried that the village would still be among the first to go in the case of a tsunami. (AP Photo/Doug Esser)
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TAHOLAH, Wash. (AP) — The Corps of Engineers and Quinault Indian Nation are planning more repairs to the aging seawall at Taholah, where the lower part of the village perches perilously on the edge of the continent between the mouth of the Quinault River and the pounding Pacific Ocean.

The seawall built in the 1970s has eroded. Storms earlier this year took out the toe rocks at the base and exposed the slope fill.

The Corps hopes to have a plan approved by the end of June so work can be completed before the stormy weather returns, said Doug Weber, chief of emergency management for the Seattle district.

"We'd like to get it on the fast track and get it done before fall," he said Monday.

A storm breached the wall in March. Water flooded a smokehouse and several other outbuildings and threatened homes. The tribe declared a coastal flooding emergency, issued a voluntary evacuation advisory and asked for federal help.

The Corps sent dump trucks with 4,500 tons of rock to reinforce the seawall, which is about 1,000 feet long and 10-to-12 feet high.

It needs more reshaping, which will likely take about a month of work, Weber said. The Corps has the money in flood control and coastal emergency funds, he said.

Although the desk-sized boulders in the seawall seem immovable, it's a thin barrier between the ocean and the village where homes for 800 people are barely above sea level.

Barnacle-covered floats with Japanese writing, apparently from the country's disastrous 2011 earthquake and tsunami, float onto tribal beaches as a reminder that they, too, are in a tsunami zone.

"It is definitely an exposed area," Weber said.

Taholah is on the central Washington coast, about 30 miles north of Ocean Shores, the resort town that's the closest ocean beach to Seattle.

A former tribal Council member and now tribal elder James DeLaCruz, 65, lives just inside the seawall at Taholah with a "million dollar view" of the ocean. He would also have a front row seat to a tsunami.

The post office, tribal police station, school, day care and senior center are all located in the lower village. It sits along the Quinault River where fishermen don't have far to go to tend their salmon nets.

About half of the tribe's 3,000 members live on the 325 square mile Olympic Peninsula reservation with 23 miles of coast.

"This is our home," DeLaCruz said last week.

Longer-range plans are in progress to move the lower village to higher ground where tribal administration buildings and a health clinic and other houses are already located.

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