Tuesday, December 4, 2001
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering buying seven acres of land at Bingen Point in order to build an in-lieu fishing site for tribal members.
In general, we support the idea of providing tribal fishing sites as a way to help compensate for the traditional fishing areas lost when a series of dams on the Columbia River forever changed the river. In fact, the United States government signed a treaty guaranteeing "usual and accustomed" sites to the tribes in 1855, and over the decades courts have upheld tribal rights to a "fair and equitable" share of the Columbia River fishery. The "fishing access (in-lieu) sites" on the Columbia River were specifically promised to several tribes in 1988.
However, plans to put a new in-lieu site on Bingen Point, where the Port of Klickitat is trying to develop light industrial land, is inappropriate for several reasons. To begin with, a fishing site there would basically be an island within an industrial park area.
The Port of Klickitat owns most of the land in the area, while the site in question is owned by Mt. Adams Loggers Association. It has been for sale for several years. The Port itself has been considering purchasing it, but has been unable to raise the funds.
The Port has made great strides in recent years to get the Bingen Point area geared up for light industrial development. Many success stories have come out of the Port's efforts, including convincing a number of small, innovative businesses to locate their operations there. Attractive new buildings have been constructed to accommodate the demand for industrial space, and negotiations are now under way with another unique business that appears close to setting up operations at Bingen Point -- possibly creating dozens of new jobs for the area.
Taking away any land that the Port could hope to develop in future years would be a significant setback for the Port of Klickitat, and by extension for the economy of the area.
While tribal members deserve their own land dedicated for fishing, they already have sites in the immediate area: There is one at the mouth of the White Salmon River at Underwood; one directly west of the Hood River Toll Bridge; and another on the Oregon side, just east of Hood River. Other in-lieu fishing spots are already operating or planned at locations up and down the Columbia River.
For all these reasons, the Bingen Point site is one the Corps of Engineers should drop from its list of possibilities.
At the same time, the Port needs to explore ways to finally purchase the land, a riverfront parcel that has been sitting idle for a long time. It is inevitable that someone will purchase the parcel, and it will likely happen sooner rather than later. If the Port does not want to see the land used for something that is unattractive from its perspective, or something that doesn't fit with the Port's long-range plans, then the Port -- working with the county and perhaps the state as well -- needs to get out its checkbook and take action soon.