Indian tribes set to begin marijuana sales

Tony Reider, president of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, wants to make his tribe the first in the nation to sell recreational marijuana. Here he’s shown under the grow lamps of a medical marijuana growing facility in Phoenix in March 2015.PHOTO COURTESY OF TONY REIDER — Handout

Tony Reider, president of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, wants to make his tribe the first in the nation to sell recreational marijuana. Here he’s shown under the grow lamps of a medical marijuana growing facility in Phoenix in March 2015.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TONY REIDER — Handout

BY ROB HOTAKAINEN, Sun Herald

WASHINGTON — Tourists soon may be able to go to a South Dakota Indian reservation, buy a cigarette-sized marijuana joint for $10 to $15 and try their luck at the nearby casino.

In December, the Flandreau Santee Siouxexpect to become the first tribe in the nation to grow and sell pot for recreational use, cashing in on the Obama administration’s offer to let all 566 federally recognized tribes enter the marijuana industry.

“The fact that we are first doesn’t scare us,” said tribal president Anthony “Tony” Reider, 38, who’s led the tribe for nearly five years. “The Department of Justice gave us the go-ahead, similar to what they did with the states, so we’re comfortable going with it.”

The tribe plans to sell 60 strains of marijuana. Reider is hoping for a flock of visitors, predicting that sales could bring in as much as $2 million per month.

“Obviously, when you launch a business, you’re hoping to sell all the product and have a shortage, like Colorado did when they first opened,” he said.

Other tribes have been much more hesitant.

“Look at Washington state, where marijuana’s completely legal as a matter of state law everywhere, and you still have tribes adhering to their prohibition policies,” said Robert Odawi Porter, former president of the Seneca Nation of New York.

It comes as no surprise to Washington state Democratic Rep. Denny Heck, who says he works on tribal issues every day.

“Not once has anybody ever brought up that they wanted to go down this track,” he said.

Heck speculated on one possible reason: “We’re all aware of the painful history of alcoholism in Indian Country.”

Tribes won the approval to sell pot in December, when the Justice Department said it would advise U.S. attorneys not to prosecute if tribes do a good job policing themselves and make sure that marijuana doesn’t leave tribal lands.

But federal prosecutors maintain the discretion to intervene, a worrisome prospect for many.

“This administration is very pro-tribes, very supportive. What if the next one isn’t?” asked W. Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Washington state.

He said many of the state’s 29 tribes also want assurances from federal officials that they won’t lose millions of dollars in grants and contracts if they sell a drug banned by Congress.

“We’re not getting definitive answers back,” Allen said. “There’s a number of tribes that are very aggressively looking into it and trying to sort through all the legal issues. The rest of us are just kind of on the sidelines watching.”

 

Many tribal officials took note earlier this month when federal authorities seized 12,000 marijuana plants and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana on tribal land in Modoc County, Calif.

Federal authorities said they raided the operation because the tribes planned to sell the pot on non-reservation land.

“That’s a warning shot to Indian County that this isn’t carte blanche to do whatever you want, even in a place like California,” said Blake Trueblood, director of business development for the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, based in Arizona.

Trueblood said marijuana could give tribes an economic boost, much like gaming. He said tribes will have the best opportunities in states such as Florida and New York, where demand for pot is high but the drug has not been legalized for recreational use by state voters.

“Ultimately, I think you’ll see legal marijuana in every state,” Trueblood said. “I think that’s fairly inevitable, even in very conservative places like Florida.”

 

Reider said his tribe plans to sell both medical and recreational marijuana. Minors will be allowed to consume pot if they have a recommendation from a doctor. Under a tribal ordinance passed in June, adults 21 and over will be able to buy one gram of marijuana at a time for recreational use, no more than twice a day.

“We really don’t want the stuff getting out to the street,” Reider said. “So we’re going to have like a bar setting where they’ll be able to consume small amounts while on the property.”

Kevin Sabet, president of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said the California raid shows that it’s still “an extremely risky venture” for any tribe to start selling marijuana. And he said pot sales would fuel more addiction.

“If we think alcohol has had a negative effect on young people on tribal lands, we ain’t seen nothing yet,” Sabet said.

 

As part of his homework, Reider said, he traveled to Colorado, the first state to sell recreational pot last year. He said he does not smoke marijuana but has concluded that it’s safer than alcohol, citing the behavior he witnessed at the Cannabis Cup, a marijuana celebration held in Denver in April.

“It was a peaceful environment,” he said. “Everybody was overly friendly, overly talkative to each other and respectful of each other. Where if you go to a concert where there’s a lot of alcohol, you typically see fights and arguments.”

 

Reider said the tribe plans to begin growing 6,000 marijuana plants in October and is renovating a bowling alley to house a new consumption lounge that will include four private rooms. He said the tribe may consider allowing marijuana consumption in its casino in the future.

Reider acknowledged that it’s “kind of an awkward feeling” to start selling pot, but he figures the tribe is well-equipped.

“When we started looking into it, it’s comical at first, but then you realize it’s an amazing business,” he said. “It’s highly regulated, and we’re used to the regulation from operating our casino. We’ve got security and surveillance.”

Reider said profits from pot sales will be used to help tribal members. He said that could include the construction of a facility for those addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs or methamphetamine.

“We don’t have a recovery treatment center on the reservation right now,” Reider said. “Potentially we could look to fund one of those operations, and not just for marijuana addiction.”

Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2015/07/29/6341934/indian-tribes-set-to-begin-marijuana.html#storylink=cpy

 

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and City of Sequim Partner

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and City of Sequim Partner to Connect Blyn Facilities to Sequim Wastewater Treatment Plant

 

By: City of Sequim

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the City of Sequim are pleased to announce their partnership to connect the Tribal government facilities and businesses in Blyn to the City of Sequim Wastewater Treatment Plant.The project has been under consideration by the Tribe since 2005, when Clallam County Commissioners first approved extension of sewer lines both east and west of the City.

In 2010, the City’s Wastewater and Reclamation facility was expanded to make such extensions possible, and the City Council expressed its goal of becoming a regional service provider and fostering partnerships within the city and the county.

Sequim City Manager Steve Burkett said “We are very excited about this new opportunity to work in partnership with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and utilize the capacity of our Wastewater Treatment Plant to provide service to the region. This agreement will benefit members of the Tribe, City residents, and have a positive impact on the environment.”

In 2011, the Tribe undertook a long-term comprehensive study, its Utility Master Plan, to determine whether to replace Tribal septic systems with an on-site wastewater facility, or to connect to Sequim’s existing utility.

“In the short and long run,” said Tribal COO Annette Nesse, “this plan is more cost-effective and better for the environment. Connecting to the sewer system allows the Tribe to move waste disposal away from the Sequim Bay ecosystem and its precious resources.”

Pumping wastewater away from Sequim Bay to a state-of-the-art facility furthers the Tribe’s support of the Clean Water District and reduction of harmful nutrients to marine waters. In 2006, the Tribe completed the restoration of Jimmycomelately and Dean Creeks in Blyn, to recreate the habitat that has since fostered recovery of the summer chum salmon population. In addition, the Tribe has worked tirelessly to restore the south Sequim Bay habitat to a productive marine environment for natural and farmed shellfish production. All of these efforts, as well as the decision to connect to the Sequim Wastewater facility, are part of the Tribe’s comprehensive plan goal of preserving and protecting treaty rights. This Tribal goal translates to the shared benefit of environmental protection for the entire Clallam County community.

The project – installation of approximately 6.5 miles of pipe – is estimated to cost $8.3 million ($2.3 million less than the projected cost of building an on-site wastewater system), which will be paid for by the Tribe.

The expansion extends outside the city limits, beyond the bounds of the Urban Growth Area onto Tribal reservation lands. The Growth Management Act prohibits any connections to the system along the route. Other properties between Sequim and the Tribal properties will not be allowed to join in.

Although the agreement is between the Tribe and the City of Sequim, Clallam County is involved, and has offered its support.

“This seems like a well-considered decision. In my opinion regionalization of Sequim’s wastewater facilities will have long term benefits for all jurisdictions,” said Bob Martin, Administrative Director of Clallam County Public Works.

The next steps include convening internal Tribal meetings with engineering firm Parametrix to pin down more details of the “Sequim Connection,” and then meet with the City staff to draft a formal agreement before construction begins.

Feds license PUD’s tidal power project

By Chris Winters Friday, March 21, 2014

Herald Writer

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Public Utility District on Thursday received federal approval for plans to place two large turbines on the sea floor off Whidbey Island.

The pilot project has been in development for years, and if the PUD’s Board of Commissioners signs off on the project, it may be a few more years before the turbines are installed.

Snohomish County PUDThis artist's rendering shows the tidal energy turbine Snohomish County Public Utility District plans to test to determine if tidal energy is a viable source of electricity.

Snohomish County PUD
This artist’s rendering shows the tidal energy turbine Snohomish County Public Utility District plans to test to determine if tidal energy is a viable source of electricity.

The project is a test to see if using tides to generate electricity is technically, commercially and environmentally viable, said Craig Caller, an assistant general manager for the PUD.

It would be the first time tidal power turbines in Puget Sound would be connected to the larger electricity grid.

So far, the PUD has raised about $13 million in federal Department of Energy grants, which is expected to cover about half the cost of the project. The rest would come from a mix of more grants and money from the utility’s Resource Reinvestment Reserve, Caller said.

The test area is 200 feet deep in Admiralty Inlet, less than half a mile off the west shore of Whidbey Island and not far from the Keystone ferry slip and Fort Casey State Park.

The utility is to operate the turbines for three to five years, during which time it will study the turbines’ actual performance versus the expected output, maintenance requirements, underwater noise and response of nearby fish and marine mammals.

Gathering that data will determine whether the utility proceeds with a commercial deployment. Right now there isn’t enough data to make even an educated guess as to tidal power’s viability.

“It’s in its infancy. It’s about where wind technology was decades ago,” said Dave Aldrich, president of the PUD’s Board of Commissioners.

In issuing the license, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled that the PUD has addressed concerns raised by Native American tribes and an undersea cable company.

The Tulalip Indian Tribes, the Suquamish Tribe and the Point No Point Treaty Council, representing the Port Gamble and Jamestown S’Klallam tribes, opposed the project, saying the turbines posed a risk to fish and fishing nets and would force the state to close the area to fishing.

A data communications company, Pacific Crossing of Danville, Calif., also protested the project. The company operates more than 13,000 miles of undersea fiber-optic cable that pass through Admiralty Inlet to Harbour Pointe from Asia and California. It is concerned cables would be damaged by the operation of the turbines.

Caller said that FERC in its ruling said the turbines posed no risk either to undersea cables or marine wildlife, nor would they impede the tribes’ fishing rights.

Officials from the Tulalip Tribes and Pacific Crossing could not be reached for comment.

In the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland, another pilot project using the same model of turbines found there was no danger to wildlife.

“What they found consistently over that time is that when the turbine is rotating, that fish and mammals simply avoid it,” Caller said.

The turbines are to be made by the Irish firm OpenHydro. They are approximately 20 feet in diameter, weigh 414 tons each and sit 65 feet high on a triangular platform 100 by 85 feet.

At peak generation, the turbines could produce 600 kilowatts of electricity. But because this is a pilot project, it is unlikely the turbines would ever generate that much electricity for the grid, Caller said,

If the PUD’s board votes to move forward with the project — Aldrich said it likely will — the utility will need to obtain permits from Island County, where the power would be brought to shore, order the turbines and hire contractors.

It’s brand new territory for the utility, and installation of the turbines is years away.

“We’re pioneers if we go through with this,” Aldrich said.

 

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165 or cwinters@heraldnet.com.

 

Video: Tribe, Landowners Work Together to Restore the Dungeness River Valley

Working for the River: Restoring The Dungeness

Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

“Working for the River: Restoring The Dungeness” is a new film from Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe about the tribe and landowners’ collaborative work on Dungeness River in Sequim. It was produced by the tribe and Mountainstone Productions and funded by the U.S. EPA.

Working for the River – Short version from Al Bergstein on Vimeo.

Tribal chairman: Partial shutdown not affecting Jamestown S’Klallam

Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, speaks about the tribe’s self-reliant policies to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, speaks about the tribe’s self-reliant policies to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
Oct 8, 2013

 

SEQUIM –– A philosophy of self-reliance has allowed the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe to withstand the federal government’s partial shutdown and continue to focus on projects for economic development, Tribal Chairman Ron Allen said Tuesday.

“Tribes are subject to the [federal government’s] decisions,” Allen told about 100 people at the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce during its luncheon meeting at SunLand Golf & Country Club.

“We’re doing our job. We’re keeping our doors open.”

Other tribes are cutting services, Allen said, after Congress failed to approve a measure to continue funding federal programs by midnight Oct. 1.

Elwha closed child care

Allen said Lower Elwha Chairwoman Francis Charles told him earlier her tribe was cutting services because of the shutdown.

Charles told the Peninsula Daily News on Tuesday afternoon that the tribe had to shut down its child-care service because the employees who issue actual payments of grants received prior to the shutdown are furloughed.

Other programs will continue, Charles said, but the tribe has cut funding for some programs because of uncertainty about when federal funding will resume.

Need ‘buffer’

“It’s affecting the whole organization,” she said. “We just want to make sure we have a buffer in there if this goes longer than expected.”

Even after the government resumes operation, payments for the tribe’s child-care program may not arrive for months, Charles said.

“Even after they open up, it’s going to take them awhile to get started back up,” she said. “They’re going to be so behind on everything.”

The Jamestown S’Klallam have a diversified economy, Allen said.

“A lot of you look at the casino and say, ‘That’s where it’s coming from,’” Allen told the chamber crowd.

And while 7 Cedars Casino in Blyn employs more than 600 people, Allen said, the tribe also has kept a diverse mix of enterprises in its drive to stay self-reliant.

“S’Klallam means ‘strong people.’ We take that seriously,” he said.

JKT Development, the tribe’s business arm, is thriving in its construction, information technology and other sectors, Allen said.

The Jamestown Family Health Clinic in Sequim also is booming, he said, serving 12,000 patients and looking to expand.

The tribe’s dental clinic at Blyn also is busy, with its four dentists treating patients from as far away as Forks and Port Townsend, Allen said.

He attributed the tribe’s ability to treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid for driving usage at the health and dental clinics.

“We figured out a way to make it work,” he said of taking patients using federal insurance, which reimburses providers at lower rates than private insurers.

Bigger future

Expansion projects remain on the table, as well.

After remodeling the casino earlier this year, Allen said the tribe plans to build a 300-room hotel there and is planning a large conference center at the Cedars at Dungeness Golf Course.

“We need it,” he said. “Our family’s gotten big.”

But, Allen said, the resort, estimated to cost more than $75 million altogether, may take longer to actually see through as banks have tightened their lending practices since the Great Recession.

“The banks just don’t have that kind of money lying around anymore,” he said.

Geoducks, Crabs and Sea Slugs For Food and Profit

Jackleen De La Harpe, Indian Country Today Media Network

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe crabbers fish for Dungeness with a seductive perfume—the smelliest squid, herring and oily fish—bait that lures crab into the pot for harvest. Dungeness, a sweet, meaty crab, is an important commercial fishery in the Pacific Northwest and a central fishery for the tribe, located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Fished by size, sex and season—no less than 6.25 inches, no females, and no take during the molt cycle—this management strategy contributes to a successful, sustainable crab fishery. This year, a two-day Dungeness opening in Puget Sound netted more than 150,000 pounds of crab in 48 hours.

Dungeness crab
Dungeness crab

 

Cliff Prince, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, understands the great value of the fishery, especially for his family. “My son, David, has been on my boat since he was 8 years old,” he said. “Being able to spend summers with him is a big thing for our family.” This may be the last summer that David Prince, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, fishes with his father. Prince, 22, a junior at Stanford, is majoring in American Studies and plans to apply to graduate school after he graduates.

“Most of the money I’ve ever had came from crabbing,” he said. “I learned about work from going out with my dad, getting up at 4 in the morning and getting home at 7 at night. It’s the kind of thing that’s shaped a lot of my life. It’s a few thousand hours I wouldn’t have had otherwise (with my dad), being out there every day.” For the tribe, he said, Dungeness crab is “life, meaning everything. It’s what you’ve got, it’s that and fish, and it’s why we’re still here. Going out on the water to get fish and crab, it’s what sustained the tribe back as far as anyone can remember.”

2. Scavenging the Spineless, Slippery ‘Slug-Like’ Sea Cucumber

Fishermen from Lummi Nation harvest a typical array of Northwest fish and shellfish — Dungeness crab, halibut, salmon, shrimp — and a relatively new fishery, the “exotic” sea cucumber, a spineless, slippery “slug-like” creature that divers pull from the rocks and sea floor. Phillip Jefferson, 43, Lummi Nation, began diving for cucumbers in 2001 when the fishery was just getting underway. Now he helps train some of the 50 people from Lummi who earn their living underwater—serious, difficult work that requires certification and strict adherence to safety procedures. Besides the cold Pacific waters, at near-constant temperatures of 45-50 degrees F, strong currents can tire divers while sharks or sea lions, which can weigh as much as a ton, may startle and alarm divers with limited underwater sight. Equipped with surface-supplied air, full face masks or helmets and mesh bags, fishermen may dive to depths of 60-90 feet to harvest the reddish-brown “ocean detritivore,” which is sold in Seattle and to markets in China, the Philippines, and Japan.

Sea cucumber (Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration; Underwater Photographer Kevin Lee.)
Sea cucumber (Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration; Underwater Photographer Kevin Lee.)

 

Jefferson’s diving supports his family and allowed him to buy his own boat, named for his daughter, Keesha Rae, 14. On a good day, he said, it’s possible to bag 300 pounds of cucumbers. Dive fisheries, including the sea cucumber, make up a small and important part of the Lummi Nation fisheries, grossing an estimated copy.2 million in 2011. Working underwater can be straightforward, he said, “when it’s really bright, you can see a long way.” At other times, it is complicated and even mysterious “when the tide is moving hard and the current creates a lot of debris, like snow. You can’t use a light and can’t do without one. Divers call it a whiteout.” He’s seen cucumbers curl up like corkscrews to avoid predators and roll away with the tide or stand on their tails like a cobra about to strike, perhaps to spawn or elude a predator, which could well be Jefferson himself. With a rapid reproduction cycle and continued management, Jefferson believes he’ll be able to dive for this thriving fishery well into the future.

3. The Spiritual Experience of Digging for Mollusks

Geoduck, in the Salish language, means dig deep. Northwest locals understand geoduck (pronounced gooey duk) to mean really big clam, which weighs, on average, two to three pounds. Dig deep may also refer to wallets—geoduck is found infrequently in U.S. restaurants because it is so expensive—most is shipped to China where, after it has been brokered, can cost as much as copy50 per pound on the plate. This high market value is one reason that makes it one of the most closely regulated fisheries in the U.S. and Canada.

Five-year-old Elona Bowyer of Gig Harbor, a bay on Puget Sound, holds a large geoduck. (AP Photo/Peter Haley)
Five-year-old Elona Bowyer of Gig Harbor, a bay on Puget Sound, holds a large geoduck. (AP Photo/Peter Haley)

 

The Puyallup Tribe of Indians and the State of Washington carefully co-manage the geoduck fishery. At the end of a diving day and before a boat is allowed to leave a fishing tract, the catch must be weighed to account for the harvest. Most of edible part of the geoduck is the siphon, which looks like an elephant trunk and can stretch from three or four feet under the sediment stopping just at the marine floor to feed. Divers find the hidden clam by looking for a bit of siphon sticking above the sediment or a cryptic discoloration in the sand. With a shot of high-pressure water, the diver exposes the siphon and catches the clam by the “neck” before it retracts deeper below the surface.

Marvin Johnson, 29, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, a certified commercial diver, has been a geoducker for the last three years. This work is his calling, his talent and a blessing, he said, because it allows him to support his family. But it is not just the economics—digging has made him spiritually and physically stronger.

“It’s a spiritual experience to be out on the water,” he said, “it’s especially spiritual to go underneath the water. Our ancestors didn’t have the ability to put on a dry suit, it’s something that it new to us—the crabs walking with you, fish swimming around you, you can see God’s beauty down there.”

4. Keeping Pace With the Speedy Razor Clams

Skill and speed—that’s the combination of a successful Quinault Indian Nation razor clam digger. Razor clams, identified by thin, delicate bronze shells, are fast; they can dig at a rate of two feet in less than a minute. Diggers look for telltale hole in the sand, jam a shovel down, and plunge a hand behind the blade to stop the clam from getting away. The Quinaults process the sweet clam meat at the tribally owned processor, Quinault Pride Seafoods, and sell the clams primarily in the Northwest for chowder or steaks. In the U.S., other than Alaska, only the Quinault Indian Nation commercially harvests razor clams for human consumption.

When scouring the beach for razor clams, diggers look for a dimple in the sand left by the clam's siphon; then they dig as fast as possible.
When scouring the beach for razor clams, diggers look for a dimple in the sand left by the clam’s siphon; then they dig as fast as possible.

 

Gerald Ellis, Quinault Indian Nation, starting digging when he was six years old and remembers traveling with his family to Celilo Falls on the Columbia River to trade tubs of fresh-dug razor clams for spring Chinook salmon. Meeting at Celilo was a way of life for his family as it was for so many coastal and river tribes in the Northwest, who traveled to Celilo Falls to trade, fish and reconnect. That tradition of thousands of years ended in 1957 when the roaring falls were submerged with the completion of the Dalles Dam.

“Celilo Falls was probably the biggest gathering place for all tribes in the nation, there was such an abundance of fish,” Ellis said. At 68, Ellis no longer digs commercially but takes his grandchildren with him to harvest his 100-clam limit, carrying on traditions that have existed from the beginning of time, and creating his own. He smokes and cans razor clams with jalapenos, an “awesome” combination that he doesn’t sell but trades and shares with family and friends.

 

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/07/4-traditional-ways-natives-harvest-unique-seafood-northwest-150307

Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe starts Washington Harbor restoration

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe seined Washington Harbor to develop a baseline of fish populations in the harbor. The harbor’s roadway and two culverts will be replaced by a bridge later this summer. More photos can be found at NWIFC’s Flickr page by clicking on the photo.

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe seined Washington Harbor to develop a baseline of fish populations in the harbor. The harbor’s roadway and two culverts will be replaced by a bridge later this summer. More photos can be found at NWIFC’s Flickr page by clicking on the photo.

Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is restoring salmon habitat in the 118-acre Washington Harbor by replacing a roadway and two culverts with a 600-foot-long bridge.

The 600-foot-long road and the two 6-foot-wide culverts restrict tidal flow to a 37-acre estuary within the harbor adjacent to Sequim Bay, blocking fish access and harming salmon habitat.

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe seined Washington Harbor to develop a baseline of fish populations in the harbor. The harbor’s roadway and two culverts will be replaced by a bridge later this summer. More photos can be found at NWIFC’s Flickr page by clicking on the photo.

The tribe seined the harbor in April to take stock of current fish populations before construction begins this summer. Chum and chinook and pink salmon, as well as coastal cutthroat, all use the estuary. Young salmon come from a number of streams, including nearby Jimmycomelately Creek at the head of Sequim Bay.

Historically, the area had quality tidal marsh and eelgrass habitat until the roadway and culverts were installed about 50 years ago, said Randy Johnson, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe habitat program manager.

“The roadway and culverts appear to have severely degraded this habitat, with evidence showing that the estuary marsh has been deprived of sediment and is eroding,” he said. “The structures restrict access for fish and for high quality habitat to develop.”

Tribes’ court win may flow beyond culvert repairs to protect fish

A federal judge has ordered culvert repairs to ensure tribes have fish to catch, as guaranteed by their treaty rights. The ruling could have broader impact on other types of development.

By Lynda V. Mapes, The Seattle Times

A long-awaited tribal fishing-rights decision by a federal judge Friday means the state must immediately accelerate more than $1 billion in repairs to culverts that run beneath state roads and block access to some 1,000 miles of salmon habitat.

The ruling comes out of the landmark 1974 Boldt decision, which upheld the rights of tribes to fish. The ruling Friday by U.S.District Judge Ricardo Martinez in Seattle is aimed at ensuring the tribes have fish to catch.

The ruling could eventually result in other court-ordered restoration work, according to tribal leaders and policy experts.

“This culvert case is a ringing of the bell, OK you got to wake up,” said Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “We have to protect and restore the environment while we continue to look creatively for ways to develop new job and industry opportunities.”

Martinez ordered the state departments of fish and wildlife, parks, transportation, and natural resources to accelerate work to remove, replace and repair about 1,000 culverts to help restore salmon runs within 17 years.

The state Attorney General’s Office had not decided as of Friday whether to appeal the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Martinez ruled in 2007 that Washington was violating tribal treaty rights by failing to protect salmon runs. He ordered the state and tribes to negotiate a schedule for fixing the culverts that block salmon passage to their habitat, but the parties were unable to reach agreement.

Friday’s order set standards and a deadline for the repairs.

While 17 years sounds like a long time, it’s been a dozen years since the tribes in 2001 asked Martinez to find that the state has a treaty-based right to preserve salmon runs and compel it to repair or replace culverts that impede them.

Many of the agencies have a backlog of plugged or failing culverts, the pipes that carry water beneath the state’s roadways.

The state has performed some $55 million in repairs to culverts since 2001, according to the Attorney General’s Office. However, the judge noted in his order that “despite past state action, a great many barrier culverts still exist, large stretches of potential salmon habitat remain empty of fish, and harvests are still diminished.”

Allowing salmon runs to decline further is a fundamental violation of promises made in the treaties of 1854 and 1855, Martinez wrote, under which tribes ceded most of what is present-day Western Washington.

“Governor Stevens assured the Tribes that even after they ceded huge quantities of land, they would still be able to feed themselves and their families forever,” Martinez wrote, referring to Isaac Stevens, Washington’s first territorial governor. “The promise made to the Tribes that the Stevens treaties would protect their source of food and commerce was crucial in obtaining that assent to the Treaties provision.”

While the order signed Friday focused on culverts, it may potentially have broader application to other habitat insults that harm salmon.

“Everyone knows there is a number of issues out there with regard to forestry, farming, development and standards that go along with all those different industries,” Allen said. “This case helps raise those issues on the radar.”

But the tribes’ main objective isn’t for the ruling to threaten the ability to create jobs, build homes and prosper, Allen said.

“It is a balance, so what do we do? It definitely lends itself as a steppingstone to the other issues, saying these are the other problems, and what are we going to do about them. It has to be part of the cost of doing business.”

In the short term, Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Tribe and Association of Washington Tribes, said tribes want to sit down with the state to figure out a schedule and budget to implement the order.

“The tribes have always been, I feel, like in a war, and this is just one of those battles,” he said. “We have to be humble in victory and now hopefully go forward working on a plan with the state to tackle this.”

He called the order a victory not only for tribes, but all of the state’s citizens. “The Creator blessed us with one of the greatest natural resources, and it is enjoyed by people of all colors, not just tribes.”

Robert Anderson, director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington School of Law, said it is yet to be seen how far the implications of the order reach into other types of development and habitat protection and repair.

“But this is a legal shot across the bow,” Anderson said, “indicating that more needs to be done to repair habitat and stop further damage.”

Will Stelle, Northwest regional director for the National Marine Fisheries Service, called the order “sobering and significant” because it cements the fact that treaty rights are not only a federal obligation.

Ultimately, the case is about more than culverts, or fish, said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation. The tribes want to protect not just a crucial food source, but a way of life, for Indians and non-Indians alike, she said.

“People will look back at this point in history, and I am confident that when the tribes stepped up to do this, they took a critical role in protecting Washington as we know it and the way we live here,” Sharp said.

“That is true for generations to come, and non-Indians will appreciate it, too. There is a common denominator with other residents that share these values.”