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Climate change is a global problem that's already impacting some Native American tribes


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WATCH  | Located on the Pacific coast in Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, the Quinault Native American Reservation is under siege by rising sea levels.

Rising sea level threatening Native American tribe

Quinault Native American Reservation, compromised of the the Quinault, Queets, Cowlitz, Chehalis, Chinook, Quileutae and Hoh tribes, sits along 23 miles of coastline that includes the Quinault temperate rain forest.

Flood waters damaging Quinalt Indian reservation

In March 2014, the sea wall that protects Taholah, the Quinault Indian Nation’s capital, was breached and flooding damaged lower-lying neighborhoods. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made repairs but the Quinault people are waiting for more stable reinforcement. 

In the meantime, tribe members are still hammered annually by floodwaters from storms. 

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‘'Several times the ocean has breached the sea wall leading water 6 inches below the... base of my house,” said James Delacruz of the Quinalt Tribe.

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“Sometimes when the ocean does breach, we have to evacuate to the local casino to take shelter,”  said Micah Masten.

'Heightened sense of urgency'

Due to the location of the village, many residents are at risk of a tsunami if there is a catastrophic event like an earthquake.  

"We have a heightened sense of urgency here at Quinault because we live just right off the Cascades adduction zone so we’re vulnerable to a tsunami," said Fawn Sharp, president of Quinault Indian Tribe.

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Over the past couple of years, the Quinault tribe has moved some of its government buildings to higher ground, but they are still faced with the challenge of moving 700 residents that are affected by severe flooding from sea level rise. 

Smaller fish catch blamed on global warming

The resettlement of the reservation is estimated to cost $100 million. Federal funds are available but it won't cover the cost of a full relocation. 

Warmer temperatures have also resulted in a reduced salmon harvest that has affected the local fishing businesses. The smaller fish catch is blamed on the warmer waters from the North Pacific that is causing a “blob” of toxic algae that affects young salmon.

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