TAHOLAH, Wash. (AP) — The president of the Quinault Indian Nation says the tribe has decided to reopen Lake Quinault to nontribal use under new regulations…. …read more
From: AP Washington News
TAHOLAH, WA – The Quinault Indian Nation announced today they are reopening Lake Quinault to non-tribal use, under specified regulations and restrictions. President Fawn Sharp, said that since the lake was shut down in June of last year, to address pollution, invasive species and other issues, property and business owners in the area have spoken out in support of the Tribe’s actions, saying they appreciate the work being done by Quinault to protect the lake for future generations.
In a statement by the tribe Sharp said “Safeguarding our sacred lake for our children and for all the life it sustains is one of our highest priorities. If we can achieve those objectives, and share this precious resource with our non-tribal members, that’s what we will do. We believe it is time to try.”
Their Business Committee passed the Lake Quinault 2014 Fishing, Boating and Use Regulations Monday night, which covers usage of the lake for a one year period.
The press release added that the lake, up to the Ordinary High Water Mark, is located within the boundaries of the Quinault Indian Reservation. Violators of their regulations could result in confiscation of gear, and boats, as well as enforcement under the Quinault Tribal Code in the Quinault Tribal Court at Taholah.
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.
The U.S. Corps of Engineers has commenced work on the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) sea wall and Quinault has issued an advisory that this will result in increased traffic from Aberdeen to Taholah along the ocean beach road and State Route 109 for the next 48 hours, according to QIN President Fawn Sharp.
More than 100 dump trucks are engaged in the project. “With clam digging this weekend and Quinault’s General Council meeting taking place, it is projected that there will be more than 1000 additional vehicles on the road already, so we advise people to drive with extreme caution,” said Sharp.
The Corps approved Quinault’s request for emergency assistance shortly after it concurred that an emergency situation exists, posing an imminent threat to the lives and safety of residents of the Lower Village of Taholah due to breaching of the seawall and encroachment of high waves and sea water.
High waves and winds are anticipated over the week end and the threat continues. “But it is important for people to remain calm and follow the instructions of our emergency workforce,” said President Sharp.
“We wish to acknowledge and thank the help of the Corps of Engineers as well as Grays Harbor Emergency Services, the elected officials and all others who have sent their prayers and offers of support. Our people will be kept safe and we will continue to seek a more long term solution to this dangerous situation,” said Sharp.
Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation, declared a state of emergency Tuesday night due to a breach in the Taholah seawall and destruction of a smokehouse, other outbuildings and properties in the lower village. The damage was caused by high waves and intense winds. A press release from the Tribe said Sharp is the Chief Executive Officer designated to possess constitutional authority to issue such direction for the Tribe.
President Sharp also issued a voluntary evacuation order in the area and filed a request with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that the portion of Taholah in danger of being flooded and otherwise in danger from this situation be declared a federal disaster area and be made available for disaster support.
Sharp issued an executive order stating that “the dangerous condition continues and that the Taholah seawall is no longer capable of stopping the ocean from advancing into our lower village of Taholah.”
The executive order stated, “Lives as well as property are in imminent danger. A state of emergency exists in the tribal village of Taholah, on the Quinault Reservation.”
President Sharp met with congressional officials, including Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Congressmen Derek Kilmer and Dave Reichert as well as officials from the Army Corps earlier this month. “All of these officials were very supportive of our long term plans related to protection of our people from these ongoing dangerous conditions and the funding that will be required to achieve that protection on a permanent basis.”
Temporary mitigation efforts to reinforce the Taholah seawall were taken in January, when the Corps of Engineers placed 800 tons of riprap rock. “It is obvious that Quinault’s coastal defenses desperately require a more permanent fix,” said Sharp.
“We have been experiencing an increasingly dangerous situation with sea level rise and intensified storms. Our people must be protected. We will take whatever measures are necessary to see that they are,” said Sharp.
The Quinault Indian Nation is signatory to the Treaty with the Quinault of 1855. It, along with other Northwest treaties, has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the federal government, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and is thus legally classified as the “supreme law of the land” under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.
“Coal dust and diesel particulates will find their way into our air and waterways as these trains pass along and over our rivers, doing damage to natural resources upon which the Nation depends,” said Sharp. “The United States Environmental Protection Agency, Tribal governments, and environmental organizations have voiced concerns over the threat to human health these proposals bring because of the adverse health effects of coal dust and diesel pollution, including bronchitis, emphysema, lung damage, asthma, and cancer. Our elders and our children are particularly vulnerable because of sensitivity to the health effects of fine particles,” she said.
“The Quinault Nation’s treaty fishing right includes a right of access to its traditional fishing, hunting, and gathering sites that will be impacted by increased vessel and rail traffic.
In the Resolution, the Quinault Business Committee expresses its solidarity and support for the “no” position regarding the Gateway Pacific Terminal proposal adopted by the Lummi Indian Business Council, based on documented disturbance of sacred burial grounds and proposed fill of that area for the purpose of containing over a hundred acres of coal piles.
The Resolution also endorses the words of Billy Frank, Jr., Nisqually tribal elder and longtime chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) that, “We are at a legal and biological crossroads in our efforts to recover the salmon and preserve our tribal cultures, subsistence, spirituality, and economies. Not since the darkest days of the fishing rights struggle have we feared so deeply for the future of our treaty rights.” Quinault Nation, one of 20 member tribes of NWIFC, is signatory to “Treaty Rights at Risk” submitted to the federal government by that Commission. Among other things, that report states that coal export proposals will, in fact, further endanger Treaty Rights.
The Quinault Resolution will be submitted to President Obama, key members of the federal Administration, key members of Congress and to Governor Inslee.
Westway Terminal Company, based in Louisiana and Texas, has been pushing ahead toward construction of a new oil shipping terminal in Grays Harbor that would give it the capacity to store 800,000 barrels of crude oil at any given time. Westway predicts it will bring at least ten million barrels of crude oil annually through Grays Harbor, via rail and marine vessels. Two additional facilities for crude-by-rail—amounting to tens of millions of barrels of crude oil annually through Grays Harbor—are also being proposed in the same area, posing major environmental risks to the Grays Harbor community and the Quinault Nation. State and local regulators have decided to allow this proposal to go forward with minimal environmental review.
“It is not a matter of ‘if’ these shipments will cause a major spill; it’s a matter of ‘when’,” said Sharp. “The massive train, oil barge and ship traffic this project will bring to Grays Harbor is a tragedy waiting to happen. There will be spills and they will harm salmon, shellfish, and aquatic life, trample our treaty rights and cultural historic sites, and tie up traffic for extensive distances,” she said.
In 2012, major U.S. railroads transported at least 20 times as many carloads of crude oil as they did in 2008—more than a 2,000 percent increase in four years. “The number of accidents has risen proportionately,” said Sharp.
The Grays Harbor proposals add marine vessels to this patchwork system: crude oil would arrive by rail, be transferred into large storage tanks, then be piped into ocean-going barges and ships to be transported and again transferred to refineries in Washington or California.
“It has aptly been called a pipeline on wheels,” she said. “And this ill-conceived system has been given a short-cut permit process, with all the wheels greased, all for the very narrow interests of profits and short-term financial gain. But the money this project will bring into our area will be dwarfed by the devastation when the spills come. Just ask our neighbors to the north,” she said.