Dianne Sherwood, executive director of the Port of Klickitat, is concerned about the possibility of a tribal in-lieu fishing site being located on Port property in Bingen.
At a meeting with the Port of Klickitat Board of Commissioners in early November, Sherwood said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking into the potential purchase of the old Mount Adams Loggers Association (MALA) property at Bingen Point. The seven-acre site would then be used to build a tribal fishing site.
The Corps of Engineers is currently going through an appraisal process on the MALA property.
Sherwood points out that a fishing site is incompatible with the Port of Klickitat Master Plan, and also noted that there are existing in-lieu sites close by at Underwood and directly west of the Hood River Toll Bridge.
"It's in the middle of the Port of Klickitat's industrial park," said Port Commissioner Marc Harvey. "I think it would be a compatibility issue. The Port is not opposed to in-lieu sites per se, just on this particular site."
A treaty agreement the federal government made when it built the Bonneville Dam called for a number of sites to be set aside for tribal fishing. The Corps is trying to meet that legal obligation by constructing the in-lieu sites on both sides of the Columbia River.
Tom Seifert of the Klickitat County Resource Development Department said the county is adamantly opposed to locating an in-lieu site on land within the Port's industrial park boundaries.
"There are only a couple properties within the county where light industrial job creation can occur, and this is a key area," Seifert said.
In a Nov. 26 letter from the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners, all three commissioners officially went on record as opposing creation of a tribal in-lieu fishing site in the Bingen Point area.
The County Commissioners wrote that an accurate economic analysis of the site "would have highlighted the importance of the Mt. Adams Loggers site to the job retention and creation strategies of Klickitat County, the Port of Klickitat, Bingen, and White Salmon."
"It is that importance which underscores the need to remove that site from consideration," a portion of the letter read. "Limiting the land available for development within Bingen Point through an in-lieu site further reduces the county's ability to address unemployment and implement its strategic plan for economic development."
The commissioners also pointed out that they have not opposed other in-lieu sites within the county.
Harvey warned that the Port could not outbid the Corps, if it came to that.
"We have been looking at the possibility of purchasing that property for years. But what could happen is that the Port could get into a bidding war," he explained. "That is a very big concern of mine. That's not a war we could win. The Port, at this point, doesn't know how it will come up with the revenue to purchase the land. That's always been the problem."
Harvey added that the land has been sitting idle for the past several years.
Port Commissioner Wayne Vinyard has requested that the Port consult with the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners to prepare a plan to purchase the property to preserve it for light industrial use.
The Port of Klickitat does have a "Right of first refusal" to obtain the property, and would need to act swiftly if the Corps of Engineers makes an offer to buy the MALA land.
Sherwood said she will be in close contact with the county regarding this issue, and wants to get a plan in place to purchase the land on an emergency basis if necessary.