07.30.21

House Passes New Federal Funding for Tribal Relocation Efforts in Western Washington

Kilmer Led Effort to Ensure House Approved $1.4 Million for Water System Improvement for Quileute Tribe, $500,000 for Relocation Development Project for Quinault Indian Nation

Washington, DC – On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass new critical funding that has been championed by U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) to support tribal relocation efforts in Western Washington. H.R. 4502, a package of seven fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills that passed the House, included $1,479,355 in federal funding for the Quileute Tribe’s Move to Higher Ground water system improvement project and $500,000 in federal funding to help the Quinault Indian Nation build out and develop infrastructure for the Taholah Village Relocation project.

The funding for the Quileute Tribe aims to help the Tribe finish the development of a reliable water source as they seek to relocate critical community facilities and future housing to the safety of lands above the reach of tsunami waves and flood waters.

Due to climate change, increased flooding, and the risk of tsunami, the Quinault Indian Nation is developing a neighborhood above the tsunami zone for approximately 70 families – known as the Taholah Village Relocation project. The funding aims to help the Quinault Indian Nation build out and develop infrastructure for the project, including streets, sewer, water, and storm water, as well as power utilities. The infrastructure would also serve a future school site and water tank site.

“Climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coastal communities across our region – including the homelands of the Quileute Tribe and the Quinault Indian Nation,” said Rep. Kilmer. “The federal government has an obligation to fulfill its trust and treaty responsibilities – and it’s a big deal that this new funding has passed the House. I’ll keep pushing to ensure these communities get the support they need as they seek to move to higher ground and keep their people out of harm’s way.”

“We are appreciative of Representative Kilmer’s continued support of our urgent need to “Move to Higher Ground” and making the safety of the Quileute people and our neighbors in his district a priority,” said Quileute Tribal Council Chairman Douglas Woodruff Jr.

“Since time immemorial the Quinault people have lived and thrived in the Taholah Village which is along the Quinault River and the Pacific Ocean,” said Guy Capoeman, President of the Quinault Indian Nation. “However, because of the threat of increased storm surge and riverine flooding due to climate change and threat from a tsunami, the Quinault Indian Nation has made the difficult decision to relocate the Taholah Village to higher ground for the safety of our citizens. The funding included in the Fiscal Year 2022 Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies spending bill for this project will ensure the relocation process continues in a timely and safe manner. I want to thank Congressman Derek Kilmer and the Members of the Appropriations Committee for including the funding for this effort in the bill.”

The Quileute Tribe in La Push, Washington, trace their ancestry to the Northwest Coast since time immemorial. In 2012, President Obama signed legislation returning hundreds of acres of Olympic National Park land to the Tribe. This legislation provides lineage protection by allowing the tribe to move its people to higher ground from impending tsunamis and continue to preserve their culture, their heritage, and their livelihood. More information on the Move to Higher Ground can be found here.

The Quinault have lived and thrived on the Olympic Peninsula since time immemorial. Their cultural history is rich with heritage as they are among the small number of Americans who can walk the same beaches, paddle the same waters, and hunt the same lands their ancestors did centuries ago.

The Quinault Indian Nation has had models prepared by the Washington Department of Natural Resources that show a potential of tsunami inundation of 40-50 feet in depth in most of the Lower Village of Taholah, well above the elevation of the tallest building in the village. A tsunami event at the Village of Taholah would be catastrophic for the tribe, including a significant loss of life and the destruction of infrastructure, which would compromise Quinault Indian Nation government operations indefinitely. Approximately 650 residents live within the tsunami zone in the Taholah Village and important Quinault social and cultural institutions are located in the tsunami inundation zone and flood prone area. In 2012, the Quinault Indian Nation determined through multiple public processes, including a General Council resolution (a vote taken by the entire Tribe), that enabling the movement of residents, businesses, and institutions from the lower village of Taholah to a new Upper Village Relocation Area was the only solution to the threats posed by the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.

Rep. Kilmer led the effort to secure funding for both projects through the House Appropriations Committee’s Community Project Funding process.

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