Quileutes: Out of tsunami’s way

By:  Joel Connelly
Source: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Quileute Nation will get higher, safer ground on the wild and beautiful Olympic Coast that it calls home.

President Obama on Monday signed legislation authorizing a land transfer that will allow the Quileutes to move their school, offices and homes away from current tsunami-vulnerable sites up against the ocean.

“Every day, Quileute students go to school in a schoolhouse that’s just feet above sea level:  Today, we have taken the first step toward moving those students to safety,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Cantwell and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., sponsored legislation that cleared both houses of Congress earlier this month.

“I am overwhelmed with emotions and so grateful that our tribe will actually be able to move our elders and children out of the path of a tsunami and up to higher ground,” said Quileute Chairman Tony Foster.

The threat is real.  Movement along the Juan de Fuca plate, just off the coast, triggers a major earthquake — the feared “Big One” — every 300 to 400 years.  The last such quake took place on January 26, 1701, based on tsunami records from Japan and carbon dating of cedar snags in the Copalis River.

The higher land will be transferred from the Olympic National Park.  The legislation settles a dispute over the park’s northern boundary, and guarantees permanent public access to two great beauty spots of the park’s coastal strip — Rialto and Second Beaches.

The backpack from nearby Third Beach south to the mouth of the Hoh River is one of the world’s greatest beach (and headland) walks.