Quileute tribe desperate to move village to higher ground



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Posted on March 25, 2011 at 6:16 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 25 at 9:15 PM

LA PUSH, Wash. -- Officials from the Quileute Tribe are asking Congress to move their coastal reservation to higher ground in light of the Japanese tsunami.

"We would like to move our community to higher ground," said Bonita Cleveland, the tribe's chairwoman. "Our school is right on the ocean front."

The Quileute Reservation is tiny, covering only one square mile. Most of it is right down on the water. It is also surrounded by the Olympic National Park on three sides. The tribe is hoping Congress will get them some safer land that the waves can't reach, possibly a piece of higher ground that was part of the vast lands the tribe once owned.  

A week after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Washington Senator Maria Cantwell and Representative Norm Dicks sponsored bills that would transfer some tracts of land from the park to the tribe. 

"It's very real. And horrifying. Because you don't know if it's going to happen at night. " said DeAnna Hobson, who grew up on the oceanfront. Her home has now been lifted to avoid future storm waves.

The Quileutes say the land transfer would involve minimal costs and they are just beginning to look at what it will take to finance the relocation of tribal facilities.   

The awareness of the tsunami threat has hung over this village for a long time. La Push was among the first Washington communities to receive a tsunami warning siren, and practice evacuation drills in 2005. But there's only one road out of town. 

While Japan has provided clear evidence of the potential consequences for a place like La Push, the idea about moving the town has been considered for a long time. This time the effort seems to be getting some political traction.