CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, February 6, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 1162, a bill to provide the Quileute Indian Tribe Tsunami and Flood Protection, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. H.R. 1162 was introduced by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) on March 17, 2011, and was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, which reported the bill by voice vote on October 5, 2011.
H.R. 1162 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to transfer approximately 785 acres of lands within and around the Olympic National Park in the state of Washington to be held in trust for the benefit of the Quileute Indian tribe. The bill would incorporate specified federal lands within the Olympic National Park and specified land owned by the Quileute Tribe into the Quileute Indian Reservation, held in trust by the federal government. The land transfer would be made in order to facilitate the Tribe’s move to new lands on higher ground, away from the frequent flooding and the tsunami risk that the Tribe currently must contend with.
The 785 acres of land within Olympic National Park that would be held in trust for the Tribe under H.R. 1162 are in two parcels. The northern parcel, known as the Northern Lands, would be comprised of approximately 510 acres along the south side of the Quillayute River. These lands contain the area that has historically been referred to as Thunder Field. A 275-acre parcel, 220 acres of which are designated wilderness, lies immediately south of the current reservation boundary. There are no park-owned facilities or trails in this area, and there are few opportunities for park visitors.
In addition to providing for the 785 acres to be held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Quileute Indian Tribe, and excluding this land from the boundary of Olympic National Park, H.R. 1162 also would:
The Quileute Tribe is located in La Push, Washington, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Currently, all of the land held by the tribe is located on a Pacific coastal flood plain and within a designated tsunami zone. The tribe has long disputed the location of the northern border of the reservation, which divides tribal lands from ancestral lands located in Olympia National Park. According to findings listed in the bill, in recent years, this dispute has intensified as the Tribe has faced an urgent need for additional lands for housing, schools, and other Tribe purposes outside the tsunami and Quillayute River flood zones. The lack of a settlement of this dispute could adversely impact the public’s existing and future recreational use of several attractions in the Park that are accessed by the public’s use of Reservation lands, according to the bill’s findings. The reservation is surrounded by park lands to the south and the town of Forks to the east. The reservation is very small, roughly one square mile in size, and has about 400 residents.
The purpose of the legislation is to resolve the longstanding dispute along portions of the northern boundary of the Quileute Indian Reservation and to grant the Tribe access to land outside of tsunami and Quillayute River flood zones, and link existing Reservation land with Tribe land to the east of the Park. The tribe is seeking additional land to move tribal residents and infrastructure, such as schools and medical facilities, out of the tsunami and flood zones.
According to CBO, implementing H.R. 1162 “would have no impact on the federal budget.” However, H.R. 1162 would impose an intergovernmental mandate as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) by exempting some land from taxation by state and local governments, but CBO expects the cost of that mandate to be small and well below the annual threshold established in UMRA for intergovernmental mandates.