TOKELAND, Wash. — For generations, the Pacific Ocean has provided for the members of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe.
But tsunami threats and rising sea-level concerns have members seeking higher ground.
Today just under 100 Shoalwater Bay members live on the reservation at sea-level altitude.
A federal grant will help the tribe begin the process of relocating homes and tribal headquarters to a spot in the hills above the reservation.
“It doesn’t feel real,” said Shoalwater Bay’s Planning Director Quintin Swanson.
He said the tribe has applied for the same grant four times.
”It’s such an exciting moment,” said Swanson.
Swanson said the $24.98 million grant will go towards the Upland Village Relocation Road Project and will pave an almost four-mile road to a future development site.
Shoalwater Bay plans on building 28 duplexes, potentially by the end of the decade, said Swanson.
”I can see children running, and pets,” said Shoalwater Bay chairwoman Charlene Nelson.
Nelson said she first suggested seeking higher ground in 2016.
”It’s necessary. If we’re going to survive, if we want our tribe to survive, I want our tribe to survive, to move uphill,” said Nelson.
Finding ways to survive is nothing new for Shoalwater Bay. Funding helped pay for the first tsunami vertical evacuation tower in the nation, which could provide refuge for 400 people.
The tribe has eight years to spend the $25 million grant. The hope is they'll start work on the road uphill by 2026. In the meantime, they'll be looking for funding to get the work done to move their housing and facilities by the end of this decade.