Indian Affairs Committee Passes Spokane Settlement Bill

Cantwell Bill Will Provide Equitable Compensation to the Spokane Tribe of Indians for the Use of Tribal Land for Hydropower

WASHINGTON, DC – Thursday, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee unanimously passed the Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Grand Coulee Dam Equitable Compensation Act, legislation Cantwell introduced last year along with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). The Act will fairly and equitably compensate the Spokane tribe of American Indians for the federal government’s use of tribal land to produce hydropower by the Grand Coulee Dam. The bill passed the Committee by voice vote, and is now available to be considered by the full Senate.  
Cantwell delivered the following opening statement during today's markup (as prepared for delivery): 
Thank you Mr. Chairman for your leadership of this Committee and for including consideration of the Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Grand Coulee Dam Equitable Compensation Act (S. 2494) as part of today’s business meeting.
“For more than half a century, the Columbia Basin Project has made an extraordinary contribution to this nation.  It helped pull the economy out of the Great Depression.  It provided the electricity that produced aluminum required for airplanes and weapons that ensured our national security.  The Project continues to produce enormous revenues for the United States.  It is a key component of the agricultural economy in eastern Washington and provides electricity to towns and cities across the western United States.
“However, these benefits have come at a direct cost to tribal property that became inundated when the U.S. Government built the Grand Coulee Dam.  Before dam construction, the free flowing Columbia River supported robust and plentiful salmon runs and provided for virtually all of the subsistence needs of the Spokane Tribe.  After construction, the Columbia and its Spokane River tributary flooded Tribal communities, schools, and roads.  To this day the, effects of this flooding are still being felt by the Spokane tribe.
“The legislation that we are considering today is similar to legislation which was approved by this committee during the 108th and the 109th Congresses.  Several changes have been made to satisfy stakeholder groups who expressed concern about certain land transfer related provisions during the last Congress.  The Spokane tribe has spent the last year working with the county and others to address their concerns with the settlement agreement.  Lincoln County’s concerns have been addressed; and they are now enthusiastic supporters of the settlement.  I want to thank the Chairman and the tribe for their work to satisfy all those who had concerns with this important piece of legislation.
“The United States has a trust responsibility to maintain and protect the integrity of all tribal lands within its borders.  When federal actions physically and economically impact or harm tribes, our nation has a legal and moral responsibility to address and compensate the damaged parties.  Unfortunately, despite countless efforts, half a century has passed without justice to the Spokane people. 
“This legislation is the product of considerable effort on the behalf of many parties including the Spokane Tribe, and will bring fair and honorable closure to these matters.
“I urge my colleagues to join me in advancing this important piece of legislation.”
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