How politics blocked tsunami preparedness efforts on the WA coast


The Town of Ocean Shores also began planning its first evacuation tower years ago, after the state’s 2014 Safe Haven Project discovered it would need 12 to 20 towers to protect the more than 6,000 residents spread across on its sandy plains (about 57 to 85 laps along the entire coast) .

Now, with communication issues resolved and pandemic delays mitigated, Ocean Shores is moving forward. FEMA recently agreed to fund three-quarters of the projected $4.7 million cost, with the state kicking in a 10th. Across the Channel, Westport is awaiting FEMA’s decision on the first of four other towers it will need to save its 2,100 people. The first tower will be large and expensive – more than $15 million – to accommodate the tourists and sport fishermen who flock to Westport Marina in the summer. But Harry Carthum, a retired school principal turned hot dog stand owner and head of the tower effort, says it will be an economic benefit: “We know we’re losing some number of visitors and residents because of all the news about the danger of the West Coast tsunami.” Kevin Goodrich, Westport’s director of public works, boasts that the tower “will be something of an icon as well as a haven of peace”.

“We really had no setbacks,” adds Goodrich. “People here have gotten used to the idea of ​​evacuation, thanks to the [nearby] Structure of the schools of Ocosta.

This may be the key to gaining public support for tsunami protection. Once people see it, they believe it’s necessary and possible. “I noticed all the tornado shelters around Texas,” Kelly notes after returning from a trip there. “What’s different here is that no one in Washington has ever seen a tsunami.” In person, anyway. Paula Akerlund concedes Ocosta schools had a “big advantage” launching her tower while images of Tōhoku were still fresh in voters’ minds. In wary Ocean Shores, says City Grants Manager Sarah Bisson, “I really think it’s going to take successful construction [of a first tower] to build trust. »

Money is the other big hurdle, especially for small school districts in economically depressed areas like the coast. In its recent session, the legislature decided to ease the burden. It voted unanimously to establish a “school seismic safety grant program” that would cover up to 100% of the costs of vertical shelters and relocations (and seismic upgrades) and allocated an initial amount $100 million – enough for maybe three school relocations or a dozen or two towers.

State Sen. David Frockt, D-North Seattle, the bill’s lead sponsor, admits it’s just a down payment. “We’re talking about at least $1 billion, maybe more, over 10, 12, maybe 20 years,” he says, adding, “you can’t hire new legislatures to fund anything. “. But he thinks the permanent program will give a big boost. “When you have a formalized program that’s in the budget every biennium, it’s going to be politically very difficult to abandon it,” Frockt says. “Nobody wants to be the governor or the legislature who lost children in an earthquake event.”

While school districts and cities struggle to build public support for tsunami defense, neighboring indigenous tribes offer counterexamples of what is possible when communities come together. The Quileute Tribe, consigned in 1889 to just one square mile of beachfront in La Push, is currently completing a new upland K-12 school on former national park land signed under the Obama administration. This is the first step in moving the entire community to a new Upper Village, and apparently the first tsunami-induced relocation in the country. The Quinault Indian Nation has developed an ambitious master plan to move their entire village of Taholah above water reach.

“Reaching higher ground is nothing new,” says Quinault planner Robert Cardwell. “I believe Raven founded us at the mouth of the river. Since then, we have moved to the highlands. The federal government interrupted this process by building a permanent settlement on the shore. Today, Cardwell adds sardonically, “there is no division [over relocating] because we don’t pay taxes.

Perhaps the most notable project is the 50-foot escape tower that the small Shoalwater Bay Tribe will dedicate on August 5. Not so much for what it is – despite being the first tribal project of its kind – as for where it is.

To ensure maximum safety for its members, the tribe could have built the tower closer to its tribal center, 2.1 km further up the Tokeland Peninsula. Instead, says Shoalwater’s emergency management manager, Ken Ufkin, “the tribe chose to put the tower right on the edge of the reservation to make it available to the people of Tokeland”, who would not have otherwise no hope of escape. “They didn’t have to do that.” The tribe (which has significant casino revenue) covered the FEMA-required $1 million match.

“I have yet to hear any complaints or whispers from the tribesmen about its location,” Ufkin says.

Sounds too good to be true? Shoalwaters generosity is real, says off-reserve neighbor T

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