WASHINGTON, D.C. — Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp told a congressional committee that the United States is falling short of meeting its treaty obligations and trust responsibilities, citing more than $4 million the tribe is forced to come up with to supplement inadequate federal funding.
In testimony Thursday before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Sharp asked the government to support line-item requests by federal agencies supporting climate-change response and enforcement programs for tribes across the country totaling $209.6 million as well as $11.3 million to help support Quinault Nation programs in salmon-habitat restoration programs and road construction and improvement.
Sharp specifically cited those and other requests and their connection to the massive project to relocate the village of Taholah, at the mouth of the Quinault River on the outer coast of the Olympic Peninsula. Sharp noted the urgency of the project, citing the sea-level rise related to climate changeand the resulting encroachment on the village; flooding of the village — particularly during intensified storms; and the inadequacy of its protective seawall as the possibility of a Pacific Ocean tsunami looms.
The Taholah relocation project is estimated to take 10 to 20 years.
“We hope to secure funding for the relocation project through a combination of public and private sources,” she said. “This is a very dangerous situation and our people are at risk. We have to make this move as quickly and as efficiently as we can and we need the support of our federal trustee to do it.”
The first phase is the acquisition of 246 acres of individual land allotments in the proposed upper village.
“The Quinault Indian Nation will work cooperatively with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to buy the individual allotments to be taken into tribal trust for uses that will benefit the entire community,” Sharp told the committee.
She said the new village would accommodate about 400 sites for housing and room for more than 200,000 square feet of community buildings. The new sites would accommodate the 175 houses from the lower village, 129 families on the Quinault Housing Authority’s waiting list and additional sites for future community growth, she said.
About seven miles of new streets are planned, along with utilities and related infrastructure, including a new water source. Also, an existing wastewater treatment plant must be shielded from a possible tsunami.
Sharp’s testimony also focused on need for additional access roads, to restore the Blueback salmon in the Upper Quinault River and for funding to support drug interdiction, citing the many remote entry points into the rural, isolated reservation boundaries.
“The Quinault Indian Nation is taking steps to build a brighter future for our people,” Sharp said. “We are guided by our traditions and deep desire to control our own destiny. We are doing our part to improve the lives of our people and to create opportunity on the reservation, but we can’t do it alone. We urge the subcommittee to honor treaty and trust responsibilities to Quinault and to support our requests.”