November 30, 2022

Kilmer Applauds New Funding to Help Coastal Tribes Move to Higher Ground

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) applauded the U.S. Department of the Interior’s announcement that it will award $25 million to support the Quinault Indian Nation’s relocation efforts. With these funds, the Quinault Indian Nation plans to relocate critical community facilities in the village of Taholah to higher ground. The Taholah Village Relocation project will reduce recurring flood damage to critical tribal infrastructure, including community facilities and housing. Rep. Kilmer has championed efforts to protect vulnerable coastal communities, including the village of Taholah and other tribal communities impacted by climate change.

“Today’s announcement is a big deal. It’s a big deal because tribes – including the Quinault Indian Nation – have seen their homelands threatened by climate change and rising sea levels. And it’s a big deal because the effort to move people to higher ground and out of harm’s way requires the federal government to step up and fulfill its trust and treaty responsibilities,” said Rep. Kilmer. “This shows a real commitment by the Biden Administration and Secretary Haaland to have the federal government help those who are on the front lines of the climate crisis. I've been pushing for years for federal action to help the Quinault and other coastal tribes in our region enhance their coastal resiliency. I intend to keep pushing because there’s more to do.”

In December, the federal government will begin a community-driven 120-day planning period that will include the Department of the Interior and partnering federal agencies traveling to the Quinault Indian Nation to establish formal relationships and begin the process of planning the relocation.

In August 2021, Rep. Kilmer and the Quinault Indian Nation hosted U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in Taholah, Washington, to tour the Quinault Indian Nation’s Taholah Village Relocation project and discuss the urgent need for the federal government to support tribal relocation efforts. The Taholah Village Relocation project is an effort to move the Taholah Village to higher ground and relocate critical community facilities and housing. The Quinault Indian Nation, along with other coastal tribes in Washington including the Quileute Nation, the Hoh Tribe, and the Makah Tribe, are facing increased threats from climate change, increased flooding, and the threat of tsunami – and are actively moving to higher ground to protect their people and their way of life.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Kilmer has consistently fought for increased funding for tribal relocation efforts. In March 2022, Congress passed and the President signed into law an omnibus spending package that included new federal funding to support three tribal relocation projects in Washington’s sixth congressional district. That law included $500,000 for the Quinault Indian Nation to help the Tribe build out and develop infrastructure for the Taholah Village Relocation project. The infrastructure would help the tribe build streets, sewer, water, and storm water, as well as power utilities. The infrastructure would also serve a future school site and water tank site.

Rep. Kilmer is pushing for more federal funding for tribal relocation, and in the House-passed FY2023 Interior Appropriations Bill, Rep. Kilmer advocated to include increased funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Climate Resilience program – which would provide competitive awards to support critically vulnerable coastal tribal communities and Alaska Native Villages that experience severe weather-related conditions.

In the same bill, Rep. Kilmer successfully secured House report language emphasizing the needs of Tribes in both the lower 48 states and Alaska, in addition to requesting a report on unmet needs for coastal tribal communities in the lower 48 states as they attempt to move to higher ground.

Rep. Kilmer is the lead sponsor of the Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act – which provides federal resources to Native American tribes living in coastal areas to support their efforts to mitigate threats caused by climate change and sea level rise. The bill would modernize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Coastal Zone Management Grant Program to create a dedicated set-aside for tribal communities to secure grant funding to support key projects that will protect their people and landmarks from changing landscapes and weather events.

Rep. Kilmer’s bipartisan bill recognizes tribal sovereignty by amending the Coastal Zone Management Act to allow tribal governments to directly compete for Coastal Zone Management Grants, instead of requiring them to petition states to prioritize their projects. This parity is essential given the severe challenges tribal governments face in implementing coastal and shoreline measures that support public safety, public access, and cultural and historic preservation.

Coastal tribes are increasingly confronting persistent flooding, tsunami threats, and coastal erosion. Washington state has over 3,000 miles of marine coastline, where 17 tribal communities have made their homes since time immemorial.