Hoh tribe wins passage of land transfer; once signed, bill will allow tribe to move to higher ground

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The Hoh tribe soon will move from its flood-ravaged and dwindling reservation in West Jefferson County to higher ground.

The House of Representatives approved legislation Tuesday, now awaiting President Barack Obama's signature, that transfers 37 acres of Olympic National Park to the tribe and places another 425 acres it bought over the last three years into trust.

The Senate passed the Hoh Indian Tribe Safe Homelands Act by unanimous consent in October.

Minor amendments

The House had passed the act earlier this year but had to vote on it again because of minor amendments made in the Senate.

"This news could not have come at a better time for the Hoh tribe," said Chairwoman Maria Lopez in a statement.

"We nearly avoided yet another flooding this past weekend, and the rainy season is upon us."

The National Weather Service said that the Forks area has received nearly 10 inches of rain this month.

Most of the 1-square-mile reservation for the small Hoh tribe -- which has about 130 members -- is within a floodplain at the mouth of the Hoh River.

All the tribal land is within a tsunami zone.

Flooding and storms have chewed away at the small amount of land the tribe now holds.

Move housing, offices

Once legislation is signed, the Hoh will be able to move housing and administrative offices out of the tsunami zone onto 425 acres of land it has purchased.

The act prevents the tribe from building on the parkland, which sits between the reservation and the property the tribe purchased.

The addition of parkland is meant to keep the reservation contiguous.

"We hope that President Obama will expeditiously sign the bill, and once that is done, we look forward to working with the various agencies on implementation to formally place the land into trust and begin help in relocating and rebuilding our village," Lopez said.

The tribe hopes to begin building between 30 and 50 homes in the spring, Lopez has said.

A fire station and small grocery store also are planned.

The act was sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, and was introduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Norm Dicks in 2009.

Last modified: December 15. 2010 12:27AM
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