Rep. Buck’s letter

FOLLOWING IS THE text of a letter written last month by Rep. Jim Buck, R-Joyce, to Rep. John McCoy, D-Marysville.

McCoy is the state House of Representatives’ liaison between the lower chamber and tribes in the state, and was asked to participate in a meeting between North Olympic Peninsula lawmakers and the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe.

Dear Representative McCoy,

Thank you for offering to help try to find a solution to the graving yard impasse in Port Angeles. These are my thoughts and my thoughts only.

If there is any interest in a solution along these lines it will take a lot of legal and legislative work. We will need to move pretty fast, and I understand that makes tribal members uneasy.

As you know, WSDOT [Washington State Department of Transportation] failed to recognize that it would need help from the City of Port Angeles, the Port of Port Angeles and Clallam County to deal with the needs of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (LEKT).

The local governments offered WSDOT and the LEKT the combined bipartisan political support of the North Olympic Peninsula to find a suitable place for reinterment of the remains, support for completion of the archaeology and a curation facility for the study and display of the recovered artifacts.

The local governments understood that WSDOT could not use gas tax money to pay for these facilities, and that legislative action would be required. This offer was made in November of 2003.

WSDOT and the LEKT agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding in March of 2004 which permitted archaeology and recovery of remains to proceed along with construction of the graving yard.

This happened after the end of the 2004 Legislative session so there was no opportunity to include appropriations because no one knew how big a piece of property would be needed or how big a curation facility should be built.

Unfortunately, neither the LEKT nor WSDOT contacted the local governments for help as the project moved through the summer and into the fall.

The LEKT was concerned they would not have enough time to move all of their ancestors, and WSDOT was concerned about not meeting their schedule.

Finally, LEKT asked WSDOT to leave the site and WSDOT agreed.

These actions led to an impasse between the LEKT, who insists the site be used for reinterment of remains, and the local governments, who insist that a settlement be reached that provides for the completion of the project.

This letter is intended to provide a suggestion to end the impasse.

The LEKT reservation rests on two widely separated pieces of land separated by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) transfer land near the mouth of the Elwha River. The DNR manages blocks of land in Section 33 and 34 which total 320 acres. The estimated value of the lands and timber is $4,070,000.

The Port of Port Angeles owns somewhere between 4 and 9 acres of land west of the graving yard site and up to 18 acres of land east of the graving yard site.

I propose that the State of Washington offer some combination of the following in exchange for the right to complete the graving yard project:

* 1. Washington to transfer the 320 acres in Sections 33 and 34 to the LEKT to join the two parts of the reservation.

* 2. Washington to purchase from the Port of Port Angeles a suitable sized parcel of property east or west of the graving yard site for re-interment of remains and a curation facility.

* 3. Washington to make a capital budget appropriation for design and construction of a curation facility.

* 4. Washington to make a general fund appropriation for completion of the archaeology and completion of removal of remains from the site.

I am sorry that this project has had such an unpleasant impact on the communities of the Olympic Peninsula. Please feel free to discuss the proposal with Chairman [Frances G.] Charles and the LEKT Council, elders and community.

I hope this offer to resolve the situation is considered with the good will with which it is presented. Thank you again for offering to help, and I look forward to hearing about your discussions.

Best wishes,

Jim Buck

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