Quinault Flooding: Before Clear-Cutting, Watershed Prevented Overflow

Courtesy Quinault NationHighway 109 at Moclips on the Quinault Indian Nation, taken just before 10 a.m. on January 6.

Courtesy Quinault Nation
Highway 109 at Moclips on the Quinault Indian Nation, taken just before 10 a.m. on January 6.

 

Richard Walker, Indian Country Today, 1/12/15

 

In its natural state, before the logging and development and riprap, the Quinault River watershed worked like a finely tuned machine.

The north and east forks of the Quinault River flow from headwaters in the Olympic Mountains, meander through temperate rain forest and the Valley of a Thousand Waterfalls to Lake Quinault—where returning blueback salmon mature before they head upstream to spawn—and, finally, to the Pacific Ocean. The Quinault River and its tributaries nourish and drain a 188-square-mile watershed.

The river has changed since the time of the grandparents’ grandparents.

“Areas that were clear-cut changed river processes to a greater degree than did areas where only the largest trees were selectively cut,” the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reported in a 2002 study. “After vegetation was removed … the river was free to migrate across the floodplain at a faster rate.”

The more rapidly migrating river “liberated large amounts of sediment that had been stored in bars, vegetated islands, and the floodplain,” the Bureau of Reclamation added.

To protect their homes and property from the force of the rapidly migrating river, riverfront landowners responded “by re-arranging or removing large woody debris and log jams in the river and placing cabled logs and rock riprap along the river bank to prevent erosion,” the Bureau of Reclamation reported. While this worked in some places, it had unanticipated effects downstream.

“In some cases, this has limited [salmon] habitat availability because entrances to side channels become blocked with fill or levees,” the Bureau reported.

Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp, who lives at Lake Quinault, said a century of manmade changes on the Quinault River have altered natural river dynamics and ecological processes, diminishing “the popular desire for watersheds to flood within their natural floodplains, and many of the fixes and proposed fixes only make matters worse.”

Sharp believes those modifications are partly responsible for flooding, road washouts and culvert failures that occurred during a storm on January 4–5. Several residents were evacuated, one elder was rescued from a car that stalled on a flooded road, and a school in Taholah was temporarily closed because of flooding. The Quinault Nation issued a disaster-area declaration, spurring the involvement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“FEMA quickly responded and are working with staff to assess damage,” Sharp reported on January 7. “We sustained damage to a number of interior bridges and logging roads. Our offices and schools reopened today.”

The Quinault will work with FEMA over the next 30 days “to assess damages and financial impacts,” Sharp said, adding that a meeting had been scheduled for January 14. “Our scientists and natural resource staff will be briefing us on environmental impacts. [We] will know more then.”

One thing Sharp knew as she issued the emergency declaration: Any response must address modifications that have made the river more hazardous during storms.

RELATED: Deluge Causes Flooding, Mudslides, State of Emergency on Quinault Reservation

A July 2011 environmental impact assessment, by the Quinault Nation and BIA, of Quinault’s restoration plans for the Upper Quinault River “preferred [the] alternative of installing engineered logjams and restorative planting of conifer and hardwood trees to meet the goals of improving river processes and salmon habitat.”

The Quinault Nation is installing engineered logjams, removing invasive species, and replanting native trees to aid forest regeneration. And between 2000 and 2013, the Quinault Nation spent more than $5 million on river and salmon habitat restoration.

In 2013, the Quinault asked Congress for an investment of $5.79 million over a period of five years for Upper Quinault River restoration; the tribe also asked Washington State—with the Quinault a co-manager of the state’s salmon populations—for an allocation of $2.8 million for continued restoration work on the Upper Quinault River watershed. Those requests were partially funded, according to Quinault Nation spokesman Steve Robinson.

As far as salmon habitat restoration goes, “We have had small local effects, particularly in those areas where we’ve put in structures, such as log jams,” Quinault Nation fisheries senior scientist Larry Gilbertson told Indian Country Today Media Network in 2013. “But in the overall watershed, we’ve only just begun.”

RELATED: Quinault Nation Pushes for Blueback Habitat Restoration Support

And now, the impacts to people and property of those earlier modifications that altered natural river dynamics are being felt.

‘The worst I’ve seen it’

Sharp is accustomed to storms. And she has studied photographs of floods that occurred in Quinault territory 100 years ago. But she had never seen anything like this.

There were reports of landslides and flooding in Quinault territory and in neighboring communities during the January 4–5 storm. Portions of two state routes and U.S. Highway 101 were closed, made treacherous by flooding, debris or washouts.

The Quinault Nation’s administrative offices and a school in Taholah were temporarily closed because of flooding. Quinault’s Property Management Division ordered an emergency inspection of all the Nation’s buildings and infrastructure. Major access roads into Quinault were closed or deemed extremely hazardous.

A portion of road reportedly washed out on the Upper Quinault River, sending debris into salmon spawning habitat. Two nearby rivers, the Moclips and the Queets, also overflowed.

“The Moclips River flooding is the worst I’ve seen it,” Sharp said on January 5. “The Moclips Highway 109 Bridge near Quinault Village, a main access road to and from the Nation, has been washed out and is closed. That is a major problem for [Quinault]. SR 109 could take days to repair. And if our own Moclips Highway needs major repairs, we will have significant commuter problems.”

Various Quinault agencies worked to clear storm drains, evaluate damage, and monitor the wastewater treatment plant in Queets, which was compromised by the overflowing Queets River.

Amid the rain and flooding and landslide and debris, Sharp found reason to be grateful. “We are very happy and relieved to report that, to our knowledge, there has been no loss of life or injury caused by this heavy rain and flooding,” she said at the time.

However, as rain was expected to return during the weekend, Sharp warned, “It is important for people to remain alert for potential slides, lingering flood dangers and infrastructure damage.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/01/12/quinault-flooding-clear-cutting-watershed-prevented-overflow-158657?page=0%2C1
 

Floods, Heavy Rains Take Toll at Quinault, Emergency Declaration Issued

Moclips Highway Flooding “Worst Ever Seen”

Source: Press Release Quinault Indian Nation

Road leading into Taholah, WA is covered with water making travel dangerous, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, on the Quinault Indian Reservation. (Photo courtesy John Preston)

Road leading into Taholah, WA is covered with water making travel dangerous, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, on the Quinault Indian Reservation. (Photo courtesy John Preston)

TAHOLAH, WA (1/5/15) – The Quinault Indian Nation has issued a Declaration of Emergency due to extreme rainfall over the past two days which has caused numerous landslides, culvert failures and washouts on the Quinault Reservation. The QIN Property Management Division has ordered an emergency inspection of all the Tribe’s buildings and infrastructure and major access roads into the Tribe have either been closed or are considered extremely hazardous, said QIN President Fawn Sharp.

“The Moclips Highway 109 Bridge near Quinault Village, a main access road to and from Nation has been washed out and closed. That is a major problem for the Tribe,” she said.

“The Moclips River flooding is the worst I’ve seen it. If it is bad as it looks, SR 109 could take days to repair. And if our own Moclips Highway needs major repairs we will have significant commuter problems,” said Sharp.

She added that the Moclips River is flowing over its banks one mile south of the Moclips Highway. For safety reasons SR 109 in Moclips has been closed. “The river has claimed at least two vehicles. One belonged to a Quinault elder and was left abandoned on the highway in the flood. An unknown number of other tribal members who live adjacent to the River were evacuated at midnight last night and are now taking refuge at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino in Ocean Shores. This section of SR 109 is closed until further notice. SR 109 is very treacherous for motorists currently due to standing water and debris caused by the flooding,” she said.

According to sources in Queets the sewer treatment plant was compromised by the Queets River which overflowed its banks. It is unsure whether or not the sewer plant is non-operational or if the service road is damaged beyond repair at this time. This plant is being monitored closely by the Nation’s managers. This breach has not been verified at this time.

The Nation highly recommends that drivers stay away from the beaches as an alternative route. The surf is up and even at low tide beach driving is not safe.

Our very own Community Services Director, Michael Cardwell, is clearing storm drain covers. The Nation’s responders have been out in force, working hard at everything from clearing drains to evaluating damage, said Sharp. “We are very happy and relieved to report that, to our knowledge, there has been no loss of life or injury caused by this heavy rain and flooding,” she said.

Reports regarding landslides and flooding have come in from across the county, including closures at the Aberdeen Bluff on State Route 12, U.S. 101 at mile marker 73, US 101 S of Ocean Beach Road, State Route109 , the State Route 109 bypass, Wishkah Road at mile marker 6 and numerous streets in Aberdeen and Hoquiam.

Concerns remain high as tribal emergency personnel are on duty checking conditions, rendering aid where necessary and cooperating and coordinating with other jurisdictions. The deluge has also borne down on the Chehalis River where warmer weather is turning snow to rain in the mountains and a flood watch has been issued by the National Weather Service. Quinault Nation retains treaty protected rights on the Chehalis. There, as in many places, habitat modifications by various industries over the years have diminished the popular desire for watersheds to flood within their natural floodplains, and many of the fixes and proposed fixes only make matters worse, she said.

“The good news is that the rainfall is expected to diminish this evening and is not likely to return until Friday. But it is important for people to remain alert for potential slides, lingering flood dangers and infrastructure damage. Please, start this new year off safely,” said Sharp.
“I want to applaud the work done by those who have pitched in to help others during this time of need, particularly our Quinault staff members. They have been tireless and dedicated, a great example to everyone. That, too, is a great way to start the year 2015.”

Swinomish Tribe Prepares For A Changing Climate

EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran meeting with Swinomish Tribal Council Chairman Brian Cladoosby at the Swinomish Reservation to discuss a new $750,000 grant to help the tribe prepare for climate change. | credit: Ashley Ahear

EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran meeting with Swinomish Tribal Council Chairman Brian Cladoosby at the Swinomish Reservation to discuss a new $750,000 grant to help the tribe prepare for climate change. | credit: Ashley Ahear

 

by Ashley Ahearn, KUOW

La Conner, Wash. — The Swinomish people have lived near the mouth of the Skagit River north of Seattle for thousands of years. Now, climate change threatens their lands with rising seas and flooding.

The Obama administration recently awarded the tribe a large grant to help cope with climate change.

The entire Swinomish reservation is pretty much at sea level, on a spit of land tucked into Skagit Bay.

Tribal chairman Brian Cladoosby says that as the waters rise, his people have been some of the first to feel the effects.

“We are experiencing it,” Cladoosby said Thursday. “We are witnessing it. For us here on Swinomish, we live on an island.”

The tribe has nowhere else to go. Flooding has put the tribes commercial areas and infrastructure at risk.

So, more than a decade ago, the Swinomish started planning.

Larry Campbell Sr., the tribal historic preservation officer, remembers.

“We took the stance where at the federal government level the scientists were still arguing, ‘is climate change a reality?’” he recalled. “We said ‘no, it’s a reality. What are we going to do to mitigate it?’”

The federal government took notice of the tribe’s climate change preparations.

“The Swinomish is a tribe that has shown leadership on climate in the past,” said Dennis McLerran, the Northwest Regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has awarded the Swinomish a $750,000 grant. McLerran met Thursday with tribal leaders to discuss their plans.

The money will be used to map where sea level rise will affect tribal infrastructure and sacred places. It will also fund an assessment of how climate change will impact tribal health and natural resources – like salmon.

“We think this is money well spent. The work that they’re doing here is work that we think will be valuable in a variety of other places and particularly for vulnerable communities and for tribal communities,” McLerran said.

Scientists project that sea levels could rise by more than 3 feet by the end of the century.

Massive flooding hits Canada’s dirty energy center: A wakeup call on climate change?

Rising floodwaters seen in Calgary this weekend. Photo: Wayne Stadler/cc/flickr

Rising floodwaters seen in Calgary this weekend. Photo: Wayne Stadler/cc/flickr

Andrea Germanos, June 24, 2013, Common Dreams

Might the torrential rainfalls that have set off record floods in the Canadian province of Alberta—home of the massive tar sands project—jolt action on climate change?

Widespread flooding has left homes and business submerged, washed out roads and left rivers swelling. In Calgary, Canada’s dirty energy capital, tens of thousands of residents have been displaced due to the flooding, while thousands have had to flee the southeastern city of Medicine Hat, which is still bracing for more floods on Monday.

“This is like nothing we’ve ever seen before in Alberta,” Alberta Premier Alison Redford said on Sunday.

The heavy rains also hit farther north, closer to the tar sands belly of the beast, triggering an oil spill that forced oil giant Enbridge to shut three of its major pipelines serving the tar sands.

The crude oil giant reported on Saturday that “unusually heavy rains in the area may have resulted in ground movement on the right-of way that may have impacted” its Line 37 pipeline causing a spill of 750 barrels.

The spill prompted the company to shut its Athabasca and Waupisoo pipelines as well.

But the disastrous flooding that has hit the province is a disaster foretold, Calgary resident and journalist Andrew Nikiforuk wrote in The Tyee Monday:

In 2005 the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative promised warming temperatures, melting glaciers, variable rainfall, changes in stream flows, accelerated evaporation and more extreme events.

In 2006 climate scientist Dave Sauchyn told a Banff audience that “droughts of longer duration and greater frequency, as well as unusual wet periods and flooding” would be the new forecast. Meanwhile researchers documented a 26-day shift in the onset of spring in Alberta over the past century.

Five years later the Bow River Council concluded that “Our rapidly growing population demands much of the land and water. Our climate is changing and the future of our water supplies is uncertain.”

In 2010 the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, an agency that the Harper government killed last year because it didn’t like its messages on climate change, reported that changing precipitation patterns were “the most common gradual, long-term risk from a changing climate identified by Canadian companies.” […]

In 2011 the NREE published more inconvenient truths in a document called Paying the Price. It concluded that annual cost of flooding in Canada due to climate change could total $17 billion a year by 2050.

A 2011 document on climate change’s impact on the Bow River warned that events could be far more severe than modern water management has previously experienced.”

And then came the kicker. In 2012 Insurance Bureau of Canada produced a report by Gordon McBean, an expert on catastrophes. It bluntly warned that Alberta “will be greatly affected by drought and water scarcity under changing climate conditions, and can expect potential increases in hail, storm and wildfire events.” Spring rainfall could increase by 10 to 15 per cent in southern Alberta too.

Maybe, though, wrote Nikiforuk, this will be “Calgary’s Manhattan Moment” in which the people of Calgary “may even reassess their government’s carbon-laden pipeline fantasies as well as the pace and scale of the tar sands.”