Mayor details plans for tsunami structure, dunes trail

Editor’s note: This is part two of the North Coast News interview with Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler about the city’s first draft of a biennial budget for 2019-2020.

Two of the most significant civic projects that would move forward under the proposed Ocean Shores two-year budget plan include construction of a public access trail/firebreak through the outer dunes and the first proposal for a tsunami evacuation structure.

“Now we have a real opportunity to sort of change the face of Ocean Shores and bring some things to the city that we have never been able to do before,” Dingler said in an interview prior to the City Council’s public hearing on the budget Nov. 13.

“I’m excited by the whole vertical evacuation proposal,” the mayor added, noting such a tsunami-safe structure was called for back in 2012 when a Planning Association of Washington symposium first was convened in Ocean Shores to propose such a concept.

Under the budget, if approved, the city would start application for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant for a tsunami evacuation structure similar to one approved by the agency for the Shoalwater Bay tribe south of Grayland. In June, FEMA awarded $2.2 million for construction of a vertical evacuation shelter, representing about 90 percent federal share of a total project cost of over $2.5 million.

The award is part of FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Grant Program which provides resources to assist states, tribal governments, territories and local communities in their efforts to implement a sustained pre-disaster natural hazard mitigation program.

“The Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program is a powerful tool for communities facing threats from tsunamis,” FEMA Regional Administer Mike O’Hare said when the award was announced. “The Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe’s investment in a Vertical Evacuation Tower means that people will have someplace safe to go within minutes of a catastrophic Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.”

The safe refuge platforms will be built above the predicted tsunami wave crest height. With a total usable area of 3,400 square feet, it will accommodate 386 people.

“The Shoalwater (proposal) has opened the door for the rest of us,” Dingler said.

There is a $5 million limitation on FEMA funding, so the city’s first decision is where to put the first such structure, followed by how big it has to be. To anchor such a structure, the mayor noted, requires pilings to be placed deep below the sand. Dingler favors a location near Ocean Shores Elementary School on city Public Works yard property. The other site would be by the Convention Center at the far end of the parking lot toward the Shilo Inn.

“Of the two, I personally lean toward the one by the school, because I think you save the children first,” Dingler said. “And there are residents living around there too.”

The idea of retrofitting existing buildings as part of a tsunami-safety process was deemed to be too costly, according to the mayor.

Trail project

While the city applied for grant funding for the long-proposed trail in the dunes, it failed to get approval last year so Dingler proposes the city start the project on its own. “People are really enthused about it. It’s something they really want to have for themselves and others. I think having a trail will get people out in the dunes, give them a place to walk and sit and watch, and it’s one of the things I admire about Long Beach,” Dingler said of the state’s other similar beach community to the south.

Although the first part of the trail will focus on the area from Damon Road beach access south past the main hotel area, the goal is to build the trail to Marine View Drive, then link up to the Coastal Interpretive Center and the Safe Routes to School trail and bike path down Pt. Brown. Dingler said she also has had discussions to extend the trail to the State Park at Ocean City and the Quinault Resort and Casino.

“I think if we started on our own, we will have a good chance of getting funding” in the future, Dingler said.

Other projects in the budget include planning for a City Hall and administration/Police facility. “We have limited space,” Dingler said of the proposal to use property the city owns across the street from the Fire Station for a new facility. “I think it’s an opportunity for growth.”