Port Angeles: Sides to sit down to discuss graving yard vs. Tse-whit-zen this week

PORT ANGELES — State, federal and tribal leaders will meet this week at the graving yard to talk about how to complete the archaeological excavation and construct the concrete dry dock.

“We hope to meet Dec. 1 or Dec. 2, but nothing has been confirmed yet,” Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances G. Charles said Friday afternoon.

Charles said tribal, state Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and officials from the state Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation will meet to see firsthand the challenges they face.

The meeting follows a preliminary ruling from the Federal Highway Administration last Wednesday that said Transportation doesn’t need to renegotiate an agreement reached with the tribe last March that outlines the scope of recovering human skeletal remains and artifacts at the 22.5-acre site.

Federal officials will issue a final ruling after reviewing comments from the state, the tribe and the Washington, D.C.-based Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The advisory council is expected to deliver its remarks by Dec. 10.

Extent of archaeology

Last month, state and tribal officials asked the Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, to settle a dispute about how extensive the archaeological excavation of the waterfront property — the former home of a Klallam village named Tse-whit-zen — should be.

To build the graving yard, the state will dig a giant hole and pour a concrete “floor” to build and float pontoons to replace the 43-year-old eastern half of the Hood Canal Bridge.

The tribe wants the state to remove all human remains before pouring the concrete, but that would require the state to dig deeper and explore areas not included in the construction plans.

The state wants to follow the agreement signed by state, federal and tribal officials that says only human remains directly affected by construction are required to be removed before the work starts.

But the tribe does not want any human remains “entombed” below concrete for an unknown number of years.

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