Feds OK $2.2 million for tsunami tower at Tokeland

3,400-square-foot tower would accommodate more than 380 people

The Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe will receive $2.2 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build a vertical tsunami evacuation tower, the tribe and agency announced Tuesday.

With a total useable area of 3,400 square feet, it will accommodate 386 people. The proposed site will provide a safe evacuation place for not just Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribal members, but also residents in the surrounding community, according to the tribe.

“We feel strongly that we are all in this together,” said Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe emergency manager Lee Shipman.

The proposed location is in Tokeland at the end of Blackberry Lane, near tribal housing and near an existing All Hazards Alert Broadcast siren, which would sound in the event of an impending tsunami. Tribal leaders also note there are hills elsewhere on tribal land that could be accessed during such an event.

The grant represents the 90 percent federal share of a total project cost of over $2.5 million and is part of the federal Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program, which provides resources to assist states, tribal governments, territories and local communities in their efforts to implement a sustained natural hazard mitigation program.

“The Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program is a powerful tool for communities facing threats from tsunamis,” said the agency’s regional administer Mike O’Hare. “The Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe’s investment in a vertical evacuation tower means that people will have someplace safe to go within minutes of a catastrophic Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.”

The structure will be built adjacent to tribal housing on a peninsula in Tokeland. The safe refuge platforms will be built above the predicted tsunami wave crest height.

The Shoalwater Bay tribe has been looking into a new, tsunami-safe structure since a study spearheaded by the Washington Emergency Management Division found a dire need for the structures up and down the coast. The Project Safe Haven report was released following the devastating Japanese tsunami in 2011, where thousands of lives were saved because of tsunami vertical evacuation structures.