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Public Statements

Providing the Quileute Indian Tribe Tsunami and Flood Protection

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, for decades the Quileute Tribe in the Pacific Northwest has waited for a chance to move out of the tsunami zone they are in and to safety.

Every day 80 students go to a school in a schoolhouse that is just 1 foot above sea level, and every day they look directly out the window at the roaring waves of the powerful ocean and wonder when they can move to safer, higher ground.

When the tragic tsunami hit Japan last March and when a recent earthquake in just the last few weeks hit off Vancouver Island, it sent another urgent message, a wake-up call to hurry to get this legislation passed through Congress. The Department of the Interior, which endorsed this legislation, said the tsunami ``clearly demonstrates the risk for the tribe and its citizens, and the need to move housing and infrastructure inland.''

Now, with the 1-year anniversary of this tragedy less than 1 month away, we have finally done our job. With the passage of this bill tonight, the Quileute Tribe can finally begin to move out of the flood zone. I thank Congressman Norm Dicks for his help in making this a reality.

The Quileute Tribe has been struggling with the natural perils of this land since their reservation was created in 1889. The river that runs through the reservation has been moving constantly over the last century, causing more erosion and flooding problems. The one road that connects the lower village to the higher ground is often flooded, making it even more challenging to deal with this particular area in case of a tsunami.

The Quileute struggle to move out of the flood zone has gone on for many years, but tonight, with the passage of this legislation, the Quileute Tribe can now move to higher grounds and a safer means to provide for their members. This is an important victory to give the Quileute Tribe and those on the reservation peace of mind.

I thank Senator Barrasso and Senator Akaka for helping this legislation move out of the Indian Affairs Committee and Senator Bingaman and Senator Murkowski for helping it move out of the ENR Committee. To the tribal chairs--Bonita Cleveland and now Tony Foster--thank you for coming to Washington, DC, and explaining how important this legislation is. I also thank the National Park Service and the National Park Service Director. Thank you for your help in getting this legislation passed. I also thank Senator Murray for her cosponsorship of this important legislation.

It is important in times such as these that Congress does act, that we break gridlock and move forward. For the Quileute Tribe--a tribe that gained much national notoriety in a recent movie series--what is really important is not that notoriety but the fact that today people have come together to help them move to safer grounds.

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