Congress votes to compensate Spokane Tribe millions for lands flooded by Grand Coulee Dam

By:  Associated Press
Source: The Seattle Times

SPOKANE — The Spokane Tribe of Indians will finally be compensated after some of their ancestral homelands were flooded by the giant Grand Coulee Dam about eight decades ago.

The U.S. House on Monday approved and sent to President Donald Trump a bill that sets up yearly payments to the tribe based on a similar system for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, who also lost land when the dam and its reservoir were created.

“Financial compensation is a semblance of justice, but we never will be as we were in the past,” said Carol Evans, chairwoman of the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

Evans said dams on the Columbia River have had a positive impact for people in the Northwest, through power generation, providing for flood control and irrigation.

“But what was forgotten was the impact on the tribes impacted by the building of those dams,” she said.

The Spokane Tribe will receive $6 million a year for 10 years, and $8 million a year after that. The money will come from revenues of the Bonneville Power Administration, which sells electricity generated by Grand Coulee and other federal dams in the Northwest.

Trump is expected to sign the bill, The Spokesman-Review reported.

Washington lawmakers tried for more than a decade to win compensation for the Spokane Tribe. This year it passed the Senate in June and the House on Monday evening.

“There is no Goliath, but it’s definitely a David story. This tribe was just trying to get compensation (for) an injustice to them 80 years ago,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat. “Sometimes those voices aren’t heard. We tried to make those voices heard.”

Cantwell said she had introduced legislation to provide funding to the Spokane people nine times previously and passed several versions.

The Spokane and Colville people both had reservation land flooded by the reservoir behind Grand Coulee.

The Colville people in 1994 got Congress to approve a lump-sum payment of $53 million and annual payments of $15.2 million from BPA revenues.

Seattle Times reporter Evan Bush contributed to this report.