Quinaults try to block Flood Authority funding


Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp is actively lobbying against the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority’s efforts to secure $28.2 million for potential flood relief projects and studies on the Chehalis River.

Last month, Sharp wrote a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee urging the governor “not to move this budget request forward in your own proposed budget or support bills including this provision.”

Gov. Chris Gregoire had included the funds in her last capital budget request and Flood Authority members have been in Olympia multiple times since the legislative session started in January, urging local lawmakers to support the funding request in their own budgets. Proposed budgets are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

“Among the projects under consideration are design and construction of large-scale flood prevention projects, including dams and levees that would severely and adversely affect our ability to exercise our treaty-protected rights,” Sharp wrote in her Feb 26 letter. “We have repeatedly expressed our opposition to such projects in the past and continue to do so now.”

Sharp says her calls for participation with the Flood Authority have been ignored in recent years.

“As a co-manager of the Chehalis Basin’s resources with federally-protected treaty rights, the Quinault Indian Nation must be substantively involved in decision-making regarding flood relief measures,” Sharp wrote. “Unfortunately, our numerous past requests to have a substantive role in the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority and to have meaningful dialogue with the Governor have not been honored. We write to you to request you rectify this problem and engage with the Quinault Indian Nation before you take any steps toward supporting the proposal from the Flood Authority, either fiscally or substantively. …

“We will vigorously oppose any project that adversely affects the productivity and availability of resources essential to our ability to exercise our treaty-protected rights,” Sharp added.

Chehalis Basin Flood Authority Chairwoman Vickie Raines says she’s done all she can to reach out to Sharp and the Quinault Indian Nation. Raines, who is mayor of Cosmopolis and represents that city on the 12-member Flood Authority, points out that although she hasn’t been able to meet one-on-one with representatives from the Nation, Sharp sent officials to a Flood Authority summit at Grand Mound and also has written numerous public comment letters on Flood Authority proposals.

Raines provided numerous letters that she has sent to Sharp requesting a meeting with the Quinault leader dating back to November of 2011. She said she sent those same letters on to the governor’s office, as well. Although there were several attempts to set up meetings over more than a year’s time, Sharp’s schedule didn’t allow for it. “I have tried and tried to get a meeting with them and still want to meet with them,” Raines said.

In October of 2011, Raines officially sent an invitation to Sharp to join in active discussions on the future of addressing flood issues along the basin. The invitation came after Flood Authority members received training on government to government communications with the tribes. Shortly after the Flood Authority was formed in 2008, the Quinaults asked to be part of the authority. The 11 participating communities voted 7-4 to keep the Quinaults out. The Quinaults have no land within the basin but maintained that treaty fishing rights ought to earn it a place in the group.

Raines said on Tuesday that if the Quinaults sought membership again, they may get a different attitude.

“The door has been open and continues to be open,” Raines said. “People will say they asked to be on the Flood Authority before and were told ‘no.’ Well, there’s completely new leadership now than what was there before. They may find a different view if they were to come to the table. And they’ve chosen not to come to the table.”

Sharp’s letter concludes by noting that the Gov. Inslee should “support our treaty rights by opposing any further state financial support of flood protection projects that denigrate our rights and until such time as you meaningfully engage the Quinault Indian Nation on a discussion of appropriate state expenditures to address flooding in the Chehalis River Basin.

NEXT MEETING

The Chehalis Basin Flood Authority will meet next at 9 a.m., Thursday at Montesano City Hall. The meeting’s agenda includes updates on the current flood relief projects being done around the basin and there is a public comment period.