Port Angeles City Council discusses Dakota Access Pipeline, signs resolution supporting Lower Elwha tribe

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council came short of showing support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its fight to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline after some council members said they either didn’t know enough about the issue to have an opinion or they didn’t feel it was Port Angeles business.

Instead, in a 5-to-1 vote, with Councilman Brad Collins absent, the council agreed to sign a resolution supporting the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe in its efforts to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in fighting Energy Transfer’s $3.7 billion pipeline, which would move 470,000 barrels of domestic crude oil per day from North Dakota’s Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois.

The pipeline crosses tribal ancestral lands and crosses is scheduled to be built under the Missouri River, the tribe’s water source.

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd voted against the resolution, saying she had not studied the issue and that it is out of the city’s jurisdiction.

“I do not feel knowledgeable or qualified to support this issue at this time,” she said. “I respect and encourage everyone for their support.”

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Chairwoman Frances Charles, who has been to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, thanked the council for discussing the topic.

She told the council the Dakota Access Pipeline isn’t only an issue in North Dakota but that it affects everyone.

“The fact of it is, it’s a global issue,” she said. “It’s something we have to be conscious of.”

The resolution to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was proposed by Councilwoman Sissi Bruch, who pointed to Tuesday’s protest in downtown Port Angeles as evidence the city should support the tribe.

“It’s an issue about tribal sacred lands,” she said. “I don’t know how everyone here would feel if we put a pipeline through our cemetery.”

Mayor Patrick Downie said he didn’t feel the city should formally show support in an issue happening several states away.

For that reason, he proposed showing support for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s efforts in supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

“I’m trying to find a middle ground here that I can feel comfortable with,” he said. “I want to support our local tribe, but I’m concerned about some of the other issues.”

During public comment following the decision, some criticized the council for stepping back from showing support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Arlene Wheeler, director of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s planning and development department, told the council there might come a time when the city would like support.

“We’re asking for you guys to support not only Standing Rock but the global community,” she said. “To us, water is sacred.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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