The Skagit Valley Herald has a story about the effects rising sea levels have had on the Swinomish reservation:
The reservation’s Snee-Oosh area is just one spot that tribal leaders are concerned will be affected by the sea level rise expected to come with climate change, said Ed Knight, a senior planner for the Swinomish Indian Tribe.
Higher sea levels mean storms and extreme high tides could cause more erosion and damage. Rising water during the 2006 storm came close to cutting off Reservation Road, the community’s northern access point to Highway 20, Knight said.
Planners also worry about the 960 acres protected by a sea dike along the western shore of the Swinomish Channel, just south of Highway 20 — land the tribe set aside for future economic development.
The 2006 storm increased awareness that the community needed to be ready for problems. Those could include an increase in some diseases, including West Nile virus; impacts on fisheries and a higher frequency of wildfires, Knight said. Most homes on the reservation, which is on the eastern side of Fidalgo Island, are nestled in the forest.
The level of Puget Sound could rise from 3 to 22 inches by 2050, according to a 2008 report by the Climate Impact Group and the state Department of Ecology.
“Sea level rise is one potential issue,” Knight said. “It’s a taste of what could happen, and are we prepared to deal with it? I don’t know.”
To determine how to deal with the effects of climate change, the tribe received a $320,000 federal grant from the Administration for Native Americans in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Swinomish also partnered with La Conner, Shelter Bay, and Skagit County Climate Action and Sustainability Program and other agencies. The tribe matched the grant with $80,000 in money and resources.