Public invited to comment on Enchanted Valley Chalet relocation plan

The National Park Service has released an expedited and environmental assessment entitled, “Emergency Action to Temporarily Relocate the Enchanted Valley Chalet for the Protection of the East Fork Quinault River.”

The document is available for review at  Comments may also be submitted at that site, by clicking on “Open for Comment” and following the links to review the document and submit a comment.  Comments will be accepted through Thursday, June 5.

The EA analyzes 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.   An expedited process for this EA will facilitate the temporary relocation of the chalet this summer season, before autumn rains and high river flows return.

“We know that temporarily relocating the chalet will not provide long-term protection of either the building or the area’s natural or wilderness resources,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “The goal of this proposed action is to protect the East Fork Quinault River from imminent environmental harm, while providing additional time for more thorough planning and public review about the area’s future.”

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.

“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.


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