OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Mother Nature is encroaching on the cabins at Kalaloch Lodge, clawing away at the bluff and sending large chunks of sediment onto the beach below.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, on a Monday visit to the North Olympic Peninsula, got an up-close look at coastal erosion that has already led Olympic National Park to make plans to remove five of the cabins sitting closest to the rim this fall and implement a plan to address bluff loss estimated at between 1 to 10 feet a year.
“I wanted to come out here and see for myself what we can and what we should be doing,” Murray said. “I don’t want to lose this.”
The park already has shut down some campsites at Ruby Beach because they were deemed too close to the edge of the bluff.
Farther north are archaeological sites at Ozette that could be threatened by erosion.
At present, Kalaloch Lodge does not appear to be in imminent danger.
Steve Fradkin, coastal ecologist with Olympic National Park, said the circumstances at Kalaloch are not unique. Erosion is occurring up and down the Pacific Coast. It’s not going to stop, he said, and it could accelerate.
The ecological impact on Kalaloch Beach and its razor clams was minimal, Fradkin said. It was the park’s infrastructure — buildings like the cabins and their associated electrical and sewer systems — that are at risk.
It’s a problem that needed short- , medium- and long-term solutions, Olympic National Park Superintendent Sula Jacobs said. It also required the park to balance providing convenient access to a popular site with safety concerns.
In the meantime, the bluffs will continue to erode.
“Honestly, it’s a little bit of a race against time; all we need is a couple of really bad winters,” Jacobs said. “We’re really in the developmental stages. Once we actually know what the medium-term goal is and then when we figure out the long-term goal, that’s going to end up not being good news all around.”
Jacobs said the park had been in contact with U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer about Kalaloch. Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.
“It’s a national park and federal dollars will be needed,” Murray said. “If they can come up with a fix that’s viable, I want to be helpful any way I can to make sure we preserve this if we can.”
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@soundpublishing.com