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Commentaries and editorials

Hearings to Focus
on Tribal Needs

by Jesse Burkhardt
The Dalles Chronicle, May 31, 2017

Dallesport community will discuss two concepts for area

The Dalles Dam was completed in 1957, and before the water level of the Columbia River rose behind the new dam, many people had to be relocated. Federal funding is being made available to help some of the displaced tribal members who were not provided with sufficient assistance at the time. (Photo Jesse Burkhardt) The Dallesport Community Council will sponsor a pair of public input meetings, June 5 and June 19, to discuss two different proposals to create housing and perhaps additional infrastructure for tribal members in the Dallesport area.

Up for discussion is a plan by the Yakama Nation Housing Authority (YNHA) to build residential units in Dallesport, as well as a separate planning process by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a tribal village, similar to the one at Celilo, in either Dallesport, Wishram, or at Horsethief Lake.

"We're looking at making sure everybody is on the same page in the community," said Bill Morris, a member of the Dallesport Community Council. "We want to sit down and talk."

The two projects are not related.

"They sound similar, but are very separate," said Michelle Helms, spokesperson for the Corps' Portland District. "There are two different projects, one is the Corps' Village Development Plan and the other is an unrelated project by the Yakama Nation Housing Authority."

According to Morris, the YNHA has an option to purchase 47.5 acres in Dallesport, but no land purchase has yet been executed.

"At this time, there is no project authorized or funded for Dallesport," said Craig Dougall, executive director of YNHA in Wapato, Wash.

Morris said he realizes there is a housing problem in the Columbia River Gorge area.

"As a resident, I recognize the extreme housing shortage, but the same applies for all Americans, not tribal only," he said. "These are regional problems that have to be solved."

However, Morris is concerned that a tribal housing complex could have a negative effect on Dallesport's financial outlook.

"We can't have the community's tax base decimated," he said.

According to Helms, the Corps' Village Development Plan calls for identifying a suitable location and determining the cost to design and construct a tribal village for members of the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes.

Helms explained that the federal government made commitments to displaced tribes when Columbia River dams were built in the 1950s, and some of those promises were not kept.

"Basically, when The Dalles Dam was built, part of the proposal was to build a replacement village," Helms said. "A year ago, we were instructed to do an inventory of potential sites, and we're working in steps to get it narrowed down to see if any of the sites meet the criteria. We are in the very early stages of this plan, and have not identified a site for this village and we have not used any appropriated federal dollars to secure a site."

Helms said three sites are under consideration for a potential tribal village: Horsethief Lake, Spearfish Lake, both near Dallesport, and at Wishram.

"We have to take a look at the impacts, and how much acreage is needed has not yet been determined. That's all part of the evaluation," Helms said. "It will be about two and a half years to prepare the plan."

According to Helms, when the plan is complete, it will be sent to Corps headquarters.

"If it is approved, it then has to go through the federal budget process," she added.

To gather local input, Helms said the Corps plans a series of public outreach sessions of its own in the community later this year.

"We expect to be in The Dalles and Dallesport areas in the next few months for formal public meetings where we'll be asking for input on what we should consider when evaluating potential sites and potential impacts," she said. "It's very important to hear from people and find out what we need to consider with this plan, and how it impacts utilities, tax rolls, schools. We need to hear these concerns. We want to hear and need to hear."

At the two June meetings in Dallesport, Morris said local residents will have four minutes each to ask questions.

"We are going to be discussing the Yakama Nation housing and the Army Corps of Engineers land replacement plan," Morris said.

Both meetings will be held at the Dallesport Community Center, beginning at 6:30 p.m. and continuing until 9 p.m.

Related Pages:
Tribal Housing Replacement Funded by Jesse Burkhardt, The Dalles Chronicle, 2/24/17
Columbia River 'Shadow Tribes' Face a Housing Crisis by Ben Goldfarb, Capital Press, 8/8/16
Columbia River Tribal Housing at The Dalles Dam Bill Passes U.S. Senate by Molly Harbarger, The Oregonian, 5/14/16
Columbia River 'Shadow Tribes' Face a Housing Crisis by Ben Goldfarb, Capital Press, 8/8/16

Jesse Burkhardt
Hearings to Focus on Tribal Needs
The Dalles Chronicle, May 31, 2017

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