Senate gives final OK to plan to transfer U.S. park land to Quileute tribe

By:  Rob Hotakainen
Source: The News Tribune

WASHINGTON --- The Senate voted Monday night to give final approval to a bill that would transfer 785 acres of Olympic National Park to the small Quileuete tribe in La Push, Wash., to allow tribal members to move out of a tsunami zone.

The House signed off on the plan last week, and it now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks, both of Washington state, had pushed hard for the legislation, arguing that the coastal tribe faced imminent danger and needed to be moved immediately.

Tribal officials said they appreciated the move by Congress, adding that a recent 5.7 earthquake off the coast of Vancouver Island earlier this month served as "an ominous reminder" facing the Quileute village.

Cantwell noted that the vote came 11 months after a tsunami struck Japan, adding that members of Congress "have finally done our job."

"It is important in times like this that Congress does act, that we break gridlock and move forward," Cantwell said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Quileute chairman Tony Foster said he was "overwhelmed with emotions and so grateful that our tribe will actually be able to move our elders and children out of the path of a tsunami and up to higher ground."

The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent, with no recorded vote.

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