Tribe, park reach agreement on land swap

By Paige Dickerson
Peninsula Daily News

The Quileute tribe and Olympic National Park reached an agreement in principle to exchange land so that the tribe can relocate some buildings from their current locations in the tsunami zone.

Karen Gustin, Olympic National Park superintendent, said the agreement was reached over the last several weeks, and a draft was submitted to Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair.

The bill will be submitted as soon as possible, George Behan, spokesman for Dicks, said.

The land swap requires an act of Congress.

"The hope had been to get something going this spring, so it is already a little behind as far as that is concerned," Behan said.

"We have, of course, seen many drafts, and this one isn't quite final. We are still working with the lawyers on some of the legislative language."

Although submission is not imminent, Behan said Dicks is "very encouraged."

Negotiations for the land started in 2005, when the tribe closed the parking lot and trail head to Second Beach.

Although Second Beach is within Olympic National Park, the parking lot and trailhead are on tribal land.

Both the trailhead and parking lot reopened in 2007, and negotiations continued at Dicks' request.

Details of the agreement were not available Monday, Gustin said.


Health and safety issue

"It is really important for us to work together to draw up this legislation on this huge human health and safety issue," Gustin said.

Tribal representatives could not be reached for comment Monday.

In 2007, the tribe was seeking to exchange land that has been the object of a boundary dispute for higher ground in the park.

The tribe then said the higher land was needed to relocate several buildings, including its school and senior center, from the tsunami zone.

In exchange for the higher land, the tribe was being asked to relinquish its claim to disputed territory at Rialto Beach and allow permanent access to the breakwater south of Rialto Beach and the trailhead to Second Beach.

The tribe approached park officials in January 2005 about settling a northern boundary dispute through a land swap for higher ground to the south.

The land to the south is the only higher ground surrounding the tribe's square-mile reservation.

In addition to permanent access to the Second Beach trail head and the Rialto Beach sand spit, park officials haves asked the tribe for the concession of 8 acres at Rialto Beach.

The 8 acres are part of the disputed northern boundary along the Quillayute River and contain a parking lot and restrooms operated by the Park Service.

Another part of the disputed northern boundary are wetlands along the south bank of the Quillayute River in an area called Thunder Field.

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Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at paige.dickerson@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 27. 2009 11:37PM
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