Drought Emergency | Quinault Indian Nation

QIN Declares Drought Emergency on Reservation

Quinault Nation leaders have declared a drought emergency for the Quinault Indian Reservation as snow pack in the Olympic mountains has dwindled to zero percent of normal while total precipitation this year over the western Olympic Peninsula is the third lowest since 1895. The U.S. Drought Monitor on June 11 upgraded the drought classification for the Olympic Peninsula from “moderate” to “severe.” Drought conditions are expected to bring water shortages and restrictions as well as increased wildfire risk and hazards posing a threat to people, fish and wildlife.

Quinault Drought Emergency | Quinault Indian Nation“The coming summer is likely to bring one of the worst droughts on record to the Quinault Nation and our Olympic Peninsula neighbors,” said Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp. “Beyond the serious risks to human health and safety we face along with everyone in Washington State, potential water shortages and catastrophic wildfires could mean severe economic hardship for Quinault families and business enterprises. Our forest lands and fisheries provide jobs for Quinault families and revenues to sustain vital public services on the reservation.”

Drought Emergency Could be Catastrophic

Anticipated low stream flows and warm water conditions are a particular concern for salmon fisheries. The drought could be catastrophic for Quinault River Blueback salmon. The already perilously low projected return of Blueback for 2019 prompted the Quinault River Committee to close the fishery this year for the second year in a row.

“We may be the last generation to taste Blueback. We may be the last generation to catch prized Blueback,” added Sharp. “None of us ever imagined the last salmon era may now be upon us.”

Blueback salmon play a special role as a sockeye stock unique to the Quinault River and for returning to the Quinault homeland in late winter and early Spring when food was historically scarce. Blueback salmon literally sustained generations of Quinault people.

Quinault Drought Emergency - Quinault Indian NationFor help with the drought, the Quinault Nation will be relying on a combination of federal, state and Quinault government relief measures. Along with water districts, municipal and other tribal governments the Nation can apply for emergency state funding to aid water systems. The Washington Legislature committed about $2 million to drought relief during the last session.

Drought Emergency Causes Prohibiting Fireworks

To prevent wildfires on the reservation, the Nation is prohibiting fireworks in driftwood areas of Quinault beaches and limiting fireworks to designated areas with low fire risk.

The Quinault Nation government is also considering the following measures:

  • Increasing funding and capacity to prevent and respond to wildfires on the reservation
  • Calls for Nation members to conserve water
  • Burn bans and fire restrictions on the reservation

A June 12, 2019 news story in seattlepi.com reported “The Satsop and Wynochee rivers have experienced record low flows on some days this spring. The Hoh River, gateway to the Olympic rain forest, experienced its lowest-on-record flow for June 10. . .The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest River Forecast Center is predicting that the Elwha and Skokomish rivers – master streams of the peninsula – may experience their second lowest seasonal (April-September) runoff this year.”

For more information contact:

Fawn Sharp, President, Quinault Indian Nation, fsharp@quinault.org, (360) 276-8211, ext. 1329

Rose Enos-Weedmark, Exec. Assistant to the President, renos@quinault.org, (360) 276-8211, ext. 2010

Quinault Division of Natural Resources

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