Sen. Cantwell, Rep. Dicks Introduce Legislation Helping Quileutes Relocate Out of Tsunami Zone

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, legislation was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate that would enable the relocation of a school and several other Quileute Tribal Reservation facilities on the Washington coast to higher ground, away from the danger of a Pacific tsunami.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and Congressman Norm Dicks sponsored identical bills that would authorize the transfer of appropriate tracts of higher elevation land from Olympic National Park, which borders the Reservation, in order to alleviate the threats of tsunami destruction as well as persistent flooding from the Quillayute River.  These tracts would be added to private lands which the Tribe has purchased to form a contiguous area upon which the Tribe’s school, a day care center, the elder center, tribal government offices and several tribal members’ homes could be constructed. 

The legislation would also settle, by mutual agreement, a longstanding dispute between the Olympic National Park and the Tribe over the northern boundary of the Reservation.  In addition, the bill will guarantee public access to beaches on the Washington coast and designate as wilderness thousands of acres of land that is currently within the Olympic National Park boundary.

As she introduced the legislation today in the Senate, Sen. Cantwell said, “Last week’s tragedy in Japan is a reminder of the importance of preparing coastal communities for future tsunamis. This bill will allow the Quileute Tribe to move their community’s infrastructure to higher ground and out of harm’s way.  I’m proud to work with Congressman Dicks on this sensible plan to increase economic opportunity and safeguard Quileute families and their property from devastating floods and tsunamis.”

Rep. Dicks, who represents the Olympic Peninsula in the House, said, “The threat of tsunamis is a harsh reality that the Quileutes have faced every day on its small reservation along the Pacific coast.   The recent tragedy on the Japanese coast is a reminder of the enormous power of these waves underscores the importance of passing this legislation as soon as possible so the Tribe can move to safer ground outside the tsunami zone.”

The lawmakers credited the work that has been done over the past several years by the National Park Service and the Quileute Tribe to reach a successful resolution that will result in safer land for tribal members.