Tribes buy back 900 acres of land


Herald Writer

TULALIP — The tribes here paid the city of Everett $1 million Friday toward the purchase of 900 acres, protecting the land for their children’s future and possibly, down the road, for a gravel pit.

Officials from the Tulalip Tribes and Everett gathered Friday to take another step in returning more than 900 acres of land within the Tulalip Indian Reservation boundaries to the tribes.

"This is a great day, a historical day, a monumental day," said Herman Williams Jr., vice chairman of the tribes’ board of directors. Other tribal officials said the land parcel, which is being purchased from Everett for $7.37 million, is the second-largest land purchase by the tribes ever.

On Friday, the tribes paid $1 million in earnest money toward the sale. The purchase is scheduled to close on Feb. 16, when the tribes will hand over the balance.

Officials at Friday’s ceremony spoke of future plans for the land, as well as how negotiations between the two governments laid the foundation for more partnerships in the future.

The land is for the future of the tribes’ children, said Cal Taylor, a tribal board member.

"We don’t plan to use that land, to touch that land for many years," he said.

After the meeting, Taylor said that someday the tribes might mine the gravel beneath the land parcel. He added that the area is estimated to contain enough gravel to mine for 30 years.

"It would provide jobs for the community," Taylor said.

He also said that eventually the tribes might then fill the land back in and use it for housing.

But for at least the next 50 years, the tribes intend to preserve the land in its natural state as much as possible, Taylor said.

Others at Friday’s ceremony praised the cooperation between the tribes and Everett officials that led to the land sale.

The land is "beautiful," said Williams, "but even more important is the city’s recognition of the Tulalip Tribes as a government. We’ve gone a long way to bettering our relationship."

Dawn Simpson, another tribal board member, said the sale was a sign of how far the tribes have come since they first sold the land to Unocal many years ago.

Simpson said that, at that time, the tribes had hoped to boost employment locally with refinery work. She said she was glad that the tribes, even without the refinery, have become successful enough economically to buy back the land.

Everett first bought the land in the early 1990s from Unocal for $2.4 million, with the intention of growing trees on the property with solid bioproducts recovered from the sewage treatment process. The plan was dropped because of community opposition.

More recently, Everett received zoning approval for an almost 400-unit housing development and two golf courses on the site.

Proceeds from the land sale will go into the city’s utility account, which covers water, sewage and drainage, according to Everett Mayor Ed Hansen. The city has plans to expand and improve its wastewater treatment plant and replace sewer lines.

Currently, the tribes own about half of the 22,000 acres on the reservation.

John McCoy, the tribes’ governmental affairs director, said the tribes are negotiating two more land purchases from individual landowners within reservation boundaries.

Combined, those purchases would total about 400 acres, McCoy said. He said those negotiations could be completed in the next few months.

With this purchase, and the two pending purchases, the tribal government, with individual tribal owners, would own more than 60 percent of the land within the reservation.

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