Olympic National Park News Release
April 18, 2014
For Immediate Release
Barb Maynes 360-565-3005 or 360-477-5326
Expedited Environmental Analysis Underway for Short-Term Action at Enchanted Valley
Long-term Options to be Examined in Second, Follow-up Analysis
Olympic National Park staff is preparing an expedited and concise environmental assessment (EA) that will examine a short-term action to protect the natural resources of the Quinault River. The EA will be released for an expedited public comment period within the next few weeks.
This EA will analyze potential impacts of moving the Enchanted Valley Chalet a short distance away from its current location where it is being undercut by the East Fork Quinault River. Moving the chalet a short distance is designed to protect the river and instream natural resources from immediate harm and will provide additional time to develop a plan that will address the long-term future of the historic building.
Moving the chalet will not provide long-term protection of either the building or the area’s natural or wilderness resources. Potential long-term solutions will be examined in a second and more typical analysis, which will include several alternatives and additional public comment opportunities.
“The National Park Service is charged with protecting all of Olympic National Park’s priceless resources, from historic structures like the chalet to bull trout, a federally listed threatened species that lives in the East Fork Quinault, to the unique and irreplaceable character of the Olympic Wilderness,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.
“Taking a two-step approach to the evolving situation in Enchanted Valley allows us to address immediate resource protection needs while allowing more time to find a feasible solution that protects park resources into the future,” she remarked.
The Enchanted Valley Chalet is located 13 miles from the nearest road, deep within the Olympic Wilderness. The chalet was constructed by Quinault Valley residents in the early 1930s, prior to establishment of Olympic National Park. The chalet served for several decades as a backcountry lodge and more recently, as a wilderness ranger station and emergency shelter. The chalet was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
Photos shared by park visitors in early January showed that the main channel of the East Fork Quinault River had migrated to within 18 inches of the 1930s-era chalet. This winter’s storms and high flows have resulted in the Quinault’s main channel continuing to shift by at least 15 feet in the past four months. Recent photographs show that the river has undercut the building by approximately eight feet.
Migration of the East Fork Quinault’s channel is common in the loose, unconsolidated soils of Enchanted Valley. Storms, fallen trees, rockslides and simply the constant process of erosion can all cause the river to shift and carve a new channel.
“We appreciate the technical insights, information and photographs shared by private citizens, along with the many offers of assistance we have received from interested groups and individuals,” said Creachbaum. Over the past weeks, park staff has had numerous conversations with concerned citizens and partners which have helped inform the decision-making process.