The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) tells KXRO that they have declared a state of emergency due to ongoing landslide risks that threaten to cut off reliable road access to Taholah for the approximately 1,000 residents and those commuting into the village.
In December 2018, two separate landslides occurred within days of each other, closing SR 109 and blocking access into and out of Taholah for several days.
SR 109 is the only maintained and paved road into the village and the southern portion of the Quinault Indian Reservation.
“Since time immemorial our lands have been subject to winter storms, flooding and landslides, but the increasing frequency and intensity of severe weather brought on by climate change means we need to be more proactive responding to problem areas before they turn into disaster areas,” said QIN President Fawn Sharp.
When SR 109 is closed due to landslides or other natural disasters, the only means for entering or exiting Taholah is BIA Road 29, also known as McBride Road, which is an 8.2 mile unpaved forest management road. The road is often unpassable by passenger vehicles during periods of extreme weather.
QIN says that of urgent concern is an area referred to as the “88 Corner,” about 1 mile south of Taholah where LiDAR mapping has revealed a slow-moving landslide that is blamed for cracked pavement on SR 109 and could lead to eventual collapse of the highway.
In declaring the state of emergency, the Quinault Nation will prioritize getting technical and financial assistance to fully understand and address the risk of road collapse at 88 Corner, and additional landslides risks that threaten people, property, and disruption of access to Taholah and the Quinault Indian Reservation.
An immediate priority for QIN is to obtain updated LiDAR imagery of the 88 Corner and other problem areas along SR 109 and develop a plan to address landslide risks and maintain another reliable road route into and out of Taholah.
Numerous avenues are open to QIN to seek technical and financial assistance from the State of Washington and federal government, including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the National Landslide Preparedness Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law in early January.