The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) Business Committee is considering draft regulations which could lead to the reopening of Lake Quinault to non-tribal use this spring, according the QIN President Fawn Sharp. The lake was closed in April of 2013 due to concerns related to water pollution, invasive species, public safety and the need to protect and restore salmon habitat, particularly Blueback salmon. It was reopened, for swimming only, in time for the July 4 week end.
Representatives of the QIN met with community members on March 26 and shared draft regulations with those in attendance, including fishing and boating policies, a possible temporary moratorium on the removal of docks and a probable restriction against non-resident boats. If approved, the regulation allowing only resident boats would minimize the introduction of invasive species through transference on craft used in other bodies of water. Invasive species, ranging from milfoil to quaggua mussels, can cause severe damage to a lake environment.
Another community meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 19, in concert with Earth Day. This would be a forum, in part intended to inform and educate the public about invasive species, and other risks to the lake environment. Among others it is anticipated that there will be a presentation by an official from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Invasive Species Unit.
“Closing the lake was not an easy decision for the Quinault Nation to make. We realize it caused difficulties for a number of people. But I’m happy to say that our relationship with the businesses and residents in the Lake Quinault area has improved and that there seems to be greater understanding about our reasons for taking the action we did. Lake Quinault is a sacred place to us, and protecting it and the fish and wildlife habitat it provides for future generations, particularly Blueback salmon, is one of our highest priorities,” said Sharp.
“As a business owner in Amanda Park on the lower Quinault River, I have regular communications with Tribal fishing guides and QIN leadership. We, the Quinault River Inn ownership and staff, acknowledge the singular importance of maintaining the health of the Lake and the river ecosystem. A healthy lake supports cultural heritage, tourism and the historic use by the Lake Quinault community. We thank the Tribe for its leadership on this issue, particularly in gathering people representative of all parts of our community. We look forward to more work together to ensure our common goal. As stated so well by the Nation, ‘Protection and restoration of natural habitats in the Lake are priority policy objectives of QIN and forms a central theme for the Nation’s environmental regulations and guidelines.’ The Quinault River Inn ownership and staff align with this priority objective,” said Peter D. Bailey of the Quinault River Inn.
A statement by lakeside property owners Joe and Leslie Wheeler said, “We want to thank and applaud the Quinault Nation for its visionary leadership in protecting Lake Quinault. The lake is a beautiful resource of the Quinault Nation that the Nation has graciously made available for use by the general public. With foresight and an eye towards future generations, the Nation is taking significant steps towards preserving and even improving the beauty that is Lake Quinault. We fully support the protective use restrictions placed on the Lake so that the Quinault Blue Back Salmon can thrive again its once vast numbers and to protect from the introduction of invasive species.”
The Quinault Nation will provide additional information as it becomes available.