Lawmakers make one last effort to restart graving yard, but tribe says no

OLYMPIA — Legislators from the 24th District made one last try Monday to persuade the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe to endorse resuming the Hood Canal Bridge graving yard project in Port Angeles.

The tribe declined.

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, and Reps. Jim Buck, R-Joyce, and Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, met with tribal leaders in the state capital. They hoped to resurrect the 22.5-acre onshore dry dock to build pontoons and anchors for the east end of the floating bridge.

“The purpose of the meeting was to see if the Legislature could offer something to get the project back on track,” Buck said after the meeting, “but they are still firm in their desire that it not continue.”

Tribal leaders have been steadfast in their opposition to continued excavation on the site. It overlies the ancestral Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen, where archaeologists found artifacts dating back 2,700 years.

Francis Charles, Lower Elwha chairwoman, confirmed Buck’s account of the session.

“We just laid it out and said no, we had no intention of changing our minds,” she said.

‘Respectful’ discussion

Buck described the discussion as “respectful.” Charles called it “a break-the-ice meeting.”

The tribe urged the state Department of Transportation on Dec. 10 to stop excavating the site after hundreds of intact burials and thousands of artifacts had been unearthed.

Since then, city and civic leaders have called on the tribe to reverse its stand.

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