News

Commitment to tribal partners restores Shoalwater Bay Dune, protects Shoalwater Bay Tribe

Dec 22, 2022

by Nicole L. Celestine

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers partnered with the Shoalwater Bay Tribe to restore the Shoalwater Bay Dune on the Tokeland Peninsula, Washington, in time before the first major storm of 2022.  

The dune had sustained several storm events that caused breaching and 100 percent loss of the northern dune cross-section. Restoring the dune reduces flood and storm damage risk to human life, tribal facilities, and overall infrastructure. 

Capitalizing on its “Team of Teams” vision to fulfill its commitment to tribal partners, Seattle District leveraged Omaha District’s 41 years of rapid response expertise to provide time-sensitive dune restoration support. Together, they collaborated with the Shoalwater Bay Tribe to repair the damaged northern section of the dune.

The team had their work cut out for them: Working against the clock, and Mother Nature, to repair the dune before the next wave of storms arrived.

When the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the 2022 Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act passed in January 2022, USACE received nearly $69 million to aid Washington state projects. $40 million was designated to restore the Shoalwater Bay flood and coastal storm damage reduction berm. 

With money allocated but limited time to execute, the team began planning in February 2022. In June 2022, they began repairing the 4,000 linear feet of the damaged northern section of the dune, to restore it to its pre-damage level of protection.

Capt. Aurora Deangelis-Caban, Seattle District’s project manager, praised the “great collaboration on this project with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington State Department of Ecology and the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, to make sure every stage of this project was implemented in an environmentally responsible manner.” 

Chairwoman Charlene Nelson of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe thanked USACE for its dedication in completing the project and added, “They have worked with us to save our Tribal Reservation from rising sea waters for all of our Tribal members who live here now, and for all who will come after us.”  

Continuous dialogue between the team and the Shoalwater Bay Tribal community throughout the project’s life cycle ensured approximately 11,400 acres on the Shoalwater Reservation, cultural lands and ecologically significant wetlands were protected, and habitats on Graveyard and Empire for Endangered Species Act species like Western snowy plover and Streaked horned lark were sustained. These spits are among the most successful breeding areas for plover in Washington State.

USACE team members including Jeremy Ayala, a contracting officer's representative with Omaha District, described the Tribe’s input in discussions and project planning as pivotal to project success.  “The project shows the capabilities of a team when everyone works together to accomplish the same goal,” Ayala said.

The newly restored Shoalwater Bay Dune incorporates dredged material from offshore to restore the degraded dune, cobble-sized rock to dissipate storm waves, and sand fencing to help control wind-blown erosion. 

The Shoalwater Bay Dune Repair project, a federally authorized project under the Water Resources Development Act, includes constructing and maintaining coastal erosion protection and ecosystem restoration.