I just read this article in the Seattle Times about the Hoh Tribe wanting to get some more land, away from the Hoh River, which is erroding their area. I see this as a fantastic opporunity possible for WA State and maybe, the Hoh Trust to do a land swap and negotiate reduced kill limits on the Hoh River system. I don't think we should just give them some land, free of charge.
What do you think ?? Maybe now is a good time to write our congressional reps about this??
Besieged by water, Hoh Tribe seeks 37 acres of Olympic National Park
By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times staff reporter
It chews, it gnaws and jumps around, avulsing in a tantrum of energy to new channels, taking anything in its way right along with it. Just ask members of the Hoh Tribe: The river that carries their name is shoving them right out of their reservation.
The Hoh are a tiny tribe of fewer than 300 members, with an even smaller reservation " only a mile square when it was created in 1893. And the reservation is besieged by water from three directions: Storm surges barrel in from the Pacific. The river floods nearly every winter. And then there's the torrential rain: The Hoh live in one of the rainiest places in the lower forty-eight.
The tribe's community center and many members' homes on the reservation are encircled by sandbags to hold back the water that is too often at their doors. Some homes have even been abandoned.
As chunks of their reservation wash away, the Hoh have turned to Congress for help, seeking legislation to deed a chunk of Olympic National Park to the tribe to move the remote, isolated reservation to higher ground.
Most usable land on the reservation is within the 100-year flood plain of the river, making economic development even harder for this tribe battered by high unemployment and poverty.
The tribe has worked for several years to acquire a safe homeland for its people and a viable land base for economic development. The tribe has purchased about 260 acres to move some of its reservation out of the flood zone, and has taken title to 160 acres transferred to the tribe from the state Department of Natural Resources.
The tribe now is seeking 37 acres of national-park land, to be deeded into trust as part of its reservation, through an act of Congress.
While only a small piece of land, it is crucial to the Hoh because it would connect the tribe's existing parcels into a contiguous swath of usable land. The tribe has plans for a new future on that land, from building housing for its people, to creating a publicly accessible trail from Highway 101 to the beach.
The bill that would transfer the parkland to the tribe would prohibit logging or hunting on the parcel, today in second-growth forest and an important wildlife corridor. The tribe also would be prohibited from developing a casino on the property.
Written in collaboration between the tribe and the National Park Service, the bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, and co-sponsored in the Senate by Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. The measure was introduced more than a year ago, but the tribe still is waiting for approval of the legislation in the other Washington â€" and nervously waiting out another winter flood season.
The Hoh River moves a lot of water: more than 50 times the flow of the Green River in King County. To many tribal members, the Hoh is not the river they knew growing up. It floods more often and more violently, partly a result of various government agencies hardening river banks off the reservation for erosion control, and timber companies cutting the uplands, tribal members say.
"It's not the river," said Mary Leitka, a tribal elder. "It's because of the things we human beings have done that have changed it."
Born in La Push, Clallam County, Leitka came to the Hoh in the 1950s, when there was no road to the reservation, no running water and no electricity. Tribal members depended on the river for everything from the water they drank to the fish they ate, even transportation: Leitka used to take a canoe to get to school.
"It was our life," she said of the Hoh. It still is.
Ernie Penn, the tribe's fish and wildlife officer and a member of the tribal council, recently blazed upriver in an open boat throwing a roostertail of spray. Tribal Chairwoman Maria Lopez pointed out the places where the river has taken out homes and jumped its channel.
Penn slowed the boat, easing it to a beach where the river meets the sea. As dusk fell and fog slinked in from the Pacific, he loaded the boat on a trailer in front of a home abandoned because of repeated flooding â€" another monument to the power of the river.
As he secured the boat, Lopez said she hopes for a more stable future for her tribe. Based not on straitjacketing a river that won't be tamed, but on getting out of its way.
"I'm ready to watch the community grow," Lopez said. "We've been in the flood zone for so long."
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or [email protected]
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