The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning emergency repairs to a damaged 300-foot section of coastal retaining wall in La Push, Clallam County.
As a nasty storm threatens to make landfall Saturday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning emergency repairs to a damaged 300-foot section of coastal rock jetty in La Push, Clallam County — but the repairs won’t be completed until after the storm strikes.
The jetty, or revetment, is designed “to prevent waves from crashing in and destroying the navigation channel, the Coast Guard station and the marina,” said Patricia Graesser, a spokeswoman for the Corps.
But the failed barrier, which is essentially a rocky spit, is not accessible to the heavy equipment needed for repairs. The Corps must first widen and repair a damaged road to allow trucks to access the area.
“Crews won’t be working on the revetment until Monday or Tuesday. They need to widen the road to get trucks out there,” Graesser said.
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That means the shoreline of the Quileute reservation, the Coast Guard station and marina could be exposed to ocean waves and debris.
“It’s highly likely this (the revetment) will get overtopped in this storm system we’ll see Saturday. We want to get as much done before it hits and be prepared to raise up the elevation after,” Graesser said.
The revetment was built in 1974 and last rehabilitated after a breach in 1996, Graesser said. It is about 3,000 feet long.
Gene Ewan, harbor master at the Quileute Marina, said a storm last fall damaged the jetty and left it with a large dip.
“We’re concerned,” he said. If waves breached the jetty, “we would get the full brunt of the ocean coming across the levee into our river, straight into the village of La Push … it has the potential to be real serious.”
The marina has 94 slips, which are mostly being used by commercial fishermen this time of year, he said.
He said a substantial portion of the jetty is still intact, and it has sustained 25-foot waves in the past.
“If the jetty were to fail and if the big waves that normally crash on the jetty … come through that gap, they would force a big volume of water our way,” he said.
La Push is home to the Quileute tribe, which has been trying to move the reservation to higher ground because of tsunami and winter storm worries. The tribe’s school is near the water’s edge.
At high tide just before noon Friday, waves were “dangerously close to our tribal school with sea foam accumulating in the school’s parking lot, which is further testament of the need to move our tribal school to higher ground for the safety and protection of our children,” tribal vice chairman Rio Jaime said in an emailed statement.
“We are always concerned when storms of this unpredictable magnitude are threatening our shores,” tribal chairman Charles Woodruff said in a statement. “We are working closely with the Army Corp and our internal emergency management teams in order to protect and serve our community during this uncertain time.”
Seas could rise to 40 feet in Saturday’s storm, the National Weather Service has said. Graesser said the revetment is about six feet lower than it should be along the damaged stretch.
For mariners, U.S. Coast Guard Station Quillayute River is the only safe shelter for about 60 miles, Graesser said.
“If a vessel runs into trouble and they couldn’t get into this marina, they’d have a real problem,” she said. “If their (Coast Guard) operations are impacted by that channel silting or erosion, that could be a problem, too.”
If the channel there fills with sand, silt and debris, “nobody’s going to get through,” Graesser said.
Although the revetment was known to be a problem, Graesser said, the Corps did not have funding to make the repairs sooner.
“We’ve known there was this low spot (in the revetment) prior to this storm system and we had been planning on doing a permanent repair. But, faced with the kind of wallop we’re looking at Saturday, we knew we needed to get out there soon, so we asked for emergency funding.”
Graesser said the emergency repairs will underpin additional work needed to permanently fix the barrier.
Ewan said La Push had seen storms and high seas before. He said the general attitude among residents of the small community was one of resilience.
“We live with these storms every year. We’ve survived floods before, we’ll survive them again.”