Clallam County Fire Commissioner Advocates for Quillayute Airport Revitalization

Chip Keen, the lead commissioner for Clallam County Fire Protection District #6 at Three Rivers, delivered an update on the Quillayute Airport during a recent chamber meeting in May. Keen emphasized the airport’s significance in enhancing community resilience, especially in light of potential disasters like a Cascadia event.

Keen’s interest in the airport was sparked in 2016 amidst discussions about the Cascadia event, recognizing its crucial role in providing emergency response capabilities. He highlighted the airport’s strategic location and its potential to serve as a vital hub for relief efforts in the aftermath of a disaster.

Geological studies indicate a significant risk of a Cascadia megaquake within the next 50 years, potentially causing extensive disruptions. Positioned strategically, the airport in the West End of Clallam County is primed to serve as a key emergency response and shelter facility.

In preparation for emergencies, Keen disclosed the results of a feasibility study funded by an $87,270 Solar plus Storage for Resilient Communities grant funded by the Washington Department of Commerce. Performed by ProtoGen, Inc. of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, the study establishes the feasibility of constructing a “microgrid” connected to the Clallam PUD grid, which would include a 60kW DC solar PV array, 61.4kWh DC battery storage, and a 60kW AC traditional generator for redundancy. Detailed plans encompass site layouts, electrical infrastructure, and equipment specifications, facilitating seamless progression to construction documentation.

Recommended next steps involve stakeholder approval, funding acquisition, RFP development, contractor selection, permitting, equipment procurement, construction, and operation of the microgrid hub. This initiative equips Clallam County Fire District 6 with actionable strategies for future adversities while offering environmental and economic benefits through solar PV integration.

As the sole Tier 2 airbase on Washington’s outer coast and designated tsunami evacuation point, ensuring uninterrupted power for emergency operations is crucial. The study underscores the airport’s potential to enhance regional emergency preparedness through a resilient, grid-tied system.

Moreover, Keen envisions the Quillayute Airport as more than just an emergency resource, proposing ideas for year-round light manufacturing, tourism activities, and educational initiatives. He emphasized the need for infrastructure upgrades, including water and sewer systems, to realize the airport’s potential fully.

Keen shared some scenarios, saying, “We need to be prepared. If we experience a Cascadia event or Tsunami most bridges will be damaged. Fresh water will be a problem. In the worst-case scenario, there may be many tourists here for Quileute Days, for example, many people will be stranded. Visitors and locals will need aid, which may not reach us for weeks.”

Keen remains committed and enthusiastic about transforming the Quillayute Airport into a multifaceted asset that bolsters emergency preparedness and contributes to the community’s economic and recreational opportunities.

The Forks City Council will conduct a public hearing on May 28 at 7:30 p.m. regarding the proposed Quillayute Airport Master Plan. The plan aims to update the airport layout and facilities, funded by the FAA at $458,726. It includes a 20-year Capital Improvement Program and addresses future development and safety measures.

The plan acknowledges UIL’s role in emergency response and forecasts an increase in annual flight operations. Critical facilities such as runway lighting and instrument approaches are prioritized. The preferred alternative focuses on modest improvements to accommodate forecasted growth. Implementation would rely on FAA funding supplemented by local timber sales. The plan is available for review at Forks City Hall or online. The entire UIL AMP with the ALP drawings contained in Chapter 12 and the appendixes can be reviewed in person or at

Written comments will be accepted up to and during the hearing. Written comments can also be mailed to Forks City Council, Quillayute Airport Land Use Plan Comments, 500 East Division, Forks, WA 98331.

Individuals needing information or assistance, in order to participate in the hearing, can contact Mr. Fleck at 360-374-5412, ext 245.