Sauk-Suiattle Reservation at Risk from Climate Change

Sauk RiverThe Sauk-Suiattle Indian Reservation, including residential housing and tribal administrative offices, is at risk from flooding and erosion, according to an assessment performed by Natural Systems Design.

The assessment looked at the impacts of climate change to both tribal infrastructure and the Sauk River ecosystem that supports fish and wildlife critical to the Tribe. Natural Systems Design studied the flows and flooding of rivers, glacial melting and the impact of climate change in the valleys.

The study verifies what members of the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe have been aware of for years: the natural environment is at grave risk due to increased erosion and flooding.

The Sauk-Suiattle Reservation lies within the channel migration zone of the Sauk River and eventually could suffer catastrophic losses when the river channel moves into developed areas. Within the next 80 years, the magnitude of flooding is expected to increase 50 percent and the frequency more than double.

“The Tribe currently has no defenses to stop the river from migrating into residential housing and tribal offices,” the assessment states. “Because of the warming climate this scenario is much more likely and poses an unacceptable level of risk to the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe over the next several decades. Severe and irretrievable damages, and possible loss of life, are an inevitable consequence of failing to move residents and facilities out of their current location.”

The Tribal Council has reached out to other governments for assistance obtaining additional lands, access to lands and to put lands into Trust status with the federal government.

“Ideally, we would move the entire reservation,” said Jason Joseph, Sauk-Suiattle natural resources director. “The results of this study will assist in that effort. However, we still have to maintain our tribal lands in the meantime.”

Read the report online at

For more information, please contact: Sauk-Suiattle Natural Resources Director Jason Joseph at 360-722-2569.

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