By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Sediment has been scooped from a channel leading into Quillayute Harbor every other year to ensure safe haven for the Quileute tribe's small but economically important fishing fleet and U.S. Coast Guard Station Quillayute River.
The dredging project, which costs between $1 million and $1.5 million, was in the 2013 federal budget until President Barack Obama's sequestration-related budget deal with Congress killed and buried it.
Blame timing, said the Quileute tribe's new executive director, John Miller said last week.
Miller, the former director of Clallam County's Department of Community Development, said that the dredging, overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is funded only for odd-numbered years.
So the channel was dredged in 2011, left untouched in 2012 and was due for dredging again in 2013.
Now, it won't be happening.
“The continuing [budget] resolution with sequestration will not will not fund anything that wasn't in the 2012 budget for 2013,” Miller said.
The next dredging of the channel is now scheduled for 2015 — if it's funded.
“[The dredging delay] could restrict the ability of tribal members and other people to get boats in and out of the harbor,” he said.
“We are hoping the marina will be usable.”
The Quileute Marina can accommodate about two dozen boats.
“That will be restricted because of the siltation that's occurring,” Miller said.
“It won't be able to accommodate as many boats.”
It also could inhibit harbor use by some support boats that will accompany pullers in the 2013 Tribal Canoe Journey when they stop in LaPush this summer.
“We're not really sure where they'll go,” Miller said.
“We'll have to work with other tribes to work that out.”
The channel to be dredged leads to the boat basin that encompasses the tribe's Quileute Marina, which is also home to the rescue boats of the Coast Guard Station and a marine-spill-response trailer with material available to combat oil spills.
The station is named for the waterway that empties into the ocean there.
“As [the channel] gets silted in, there may become areas that at low tide would not be accessible by boat,” Miller said.
While the dredging project has in the past been funded, it was still subject to public comment and review under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.
The Corps of Engineers' public notice of public comment gave an idea of how important the dredging project is to the tribe and the Coast Guard.
“The project provides a harbor of refuge and has the only Coast Guard search and rescue station along 100 miles of coastline between Grays Harbor and Neah Bay,” according to the notice.
“The harbor and marina at [the] Quileute tribal reservation offer a livelihood for approximately 325 tribal members and 50 non-tribal citizens including Coast Guard personnel.
“The primary commercial activities are fishing and fish processing, which generate approximately $4 million in annual income.”
The dredging project, authorized by the federal Rivers and Harbors Act of 1930, ensures an entrance channel 10 feet deep and 75 feet wide.
Work was to include digging up 75,000 to 100,000 cubic yards from the entrance channel and the boat basin.
The material was to be deposited mostly on the ocean side of the spit to replenish it and Rialto Beach.
Corps of Engineers spokesman Bill Dowell said Friday the Corps would monitor the safety of access to the harbor.
“Facilities up and down the coast are in the same situation,” Dowell said, adding that other Corps projects have suffered from the timing constraints of the continuing budget resolution, too.
“I can't speculate on whether or not any monies will get funneled to them.”
“That's not our decision.”
Coast Guard spokesman Jordan Akiyama said Friday a reporter's query about elimination of the dredging project was the first the Coast Guard had heard of it.
The Coast Guard has rescue boats able to dock in shallow water less than 10 feet, he said.
“As far as we foresee, none of this will affect any of the Coast Guard's mission,” Akiyama said.
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer of Port Angeles, whose 6th Congressional District constituency includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, said in an email Monday that the cancelled dredging project is a victim of “another damaging ripple effect” of across-the-board budget cuts.
“I'm reaching out to the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the Quileute nation and other members of Congress to find a solution to this problem and to find a way to replace these across-the-board cuts altogether.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.