A small tribe on Washington’s rugged Pacific Coast will have a chance to move its school and part of its village out of a tsunami zone under a bill passed Monday by the Senate and sent to President Obama.
The bill, which sets up a swap with land currently in the Olympic National Park, earlier passed the House with a wide margin.
It received unanimous support from the Senate Monday evening.
Although the Quileute tribe has pushed for years to expand its reservation at La Push in the northwest Olympic Peninsula, images from last year’s Japanese tsunami helped galvanize support in Congress, which must approve such a land swap involving a national park.
“When a recent earthquake in just the last few weeks hit off Vancouver Island, it sent another urgent message and a wake-up call to get this legislation passed,” said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a prime sponsor of the bill.
“Every day, 80 students go to a schoolhouse just one foot above sea level, and every day they look directly out the window at the roaring waves of the powerful ocean and wonder when they can move to safer, higher ground.”
As part of the land swap, the tribe agreed to guarantee public access to two beaches on the coast that have been the focus of a long-running dispute between the Quileutes and the park service.