Belle Mahoney, 6, laughs as fresh water runs through her hands from a faucet opened Friday at the Tulalip Reservation during a ceremony to celebrate a newly opened water line that will provide clean drinking water to Tulalip. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Tulalips’ long-awaited water pipeline turned on

TULALIP — A decades-old feud between the Tulalip Tribes and the city of Everett was washed away Friday.

That’s when a long-awaited water pipeline connecting the city and the Tulalip reservation was turned on for the first time.

“The completion of this water pipeline is a historic event,” Tulalip Chairwoman Marie Zackuse said. “We have secured water for our people and future generations for the next hundred years.”

“It took years of planning, and years more to build the pipeline, which now carries water from Spada Lake to Tulalip,” Zackuse said. “It will enhance our salmon recovery efforts, habitat restoration, and will provide a source of fresh water for our people now and into the future.”

The “Big Water” celebration drew hundreds of people. It featured a symbolic opening of the taps. A total of 10 people including tribal leadership, former board Chairmen Stan Jones Sr. and Herman Williams Jr. and Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson each turned a spigot on a gold colored pipe and drank the first water out of carved ladles.

Then one of the children present opened a tap all the way and splashed those standing nearby.

The 36-inch pipeline was the byproduct of a long-running legal dispute over salmon habitat.

Everett started building dams on the Sultan River in 1916, with the most recent Culmback Dam completed in 1965.

In 2001, the Tulalip Tribes filed a $37 million claim against the city, saying the damming of the river had harmed salmon habitat and led to reduced runs.

Negotiations led to Everett paying a $5 million settlement to the tribes to help fund the $67 million cost of the pipeline.

In October 2016, the tribes and the city signed off on a 50-year contract during which the city would provide up to 30 million gallons per day to the reservation.

The reservation only uses about 1 million gallons of water per day, and likely won’t approach capacity for decades.

The pipeline will help supplement flow to the tribes’ salmon hatchery during dry spells, however, and it also will help bolster the water table. The tribal utility department has been overwhelmed and faucets have run dry during past droughts.

Williams, who took part in the initial talks with Everett, said difficult discussions turned positive as they found common ground.

“We sat down as human beings talking frankly to one another, and out of this came this water pipe,” Williams said.

At one point, Stephanson took Williams aside outside the negotiation room.

“He said, ‘We’re all good people, we’re all trying to do the right thing, let’s take a leap of faith,’” Williams said.

“I’m just tickled pink we get to turn the faucets on today,” he said.

Williams, Jones and Stephanson were honored with woven blankets for their work.

“What this was about more than anything was trust,” Stephanson said.

The mayor added that his father, who died recently, had taught him since childhood about the injustices that had been done to Native Americans.

“I really never thought I’d have the opportunity in my lifetime to right a wrong. And this agreement rights a wrong,” Stephanson said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Local COVID-19 cases might have peaked, health official says

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dr. Chris Spitters of the Snohomish Health District.

Community Transit cuts routes further as ridership plummets

Some routes had zero passengers for days, and a dozen employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

Habib backs Liias to succeed him as lieutenant governor

The state senator picks up key endorsement as Congressman Heck considers entering the race

1.2 million students won’t return to classrooms anytime soon

The governor has extended a statewide closure through June 19 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 claims Kona Kitchen’s matriarch and her husband

Liz Mar was beloved for her hospitality and graciousness at the Hawaiian restaurant in Lynnwood.

COVID-19 and cloth face covers

Public Health Essentials! A blog by the Snohomish Health District.

Lynnwood settles with man who was jailed over stolen coffee

The city paid $20,000 to the legally deaf man, who claimed he was wrongfully imprisoned and beaten.

Stave off stay-at-home boredom and go for a drive

With the roads so empty and few entertainment options outside the house, it’s time for a joyride.

2 Everett postal workers have tested positive for COVID-19

There’s no evidence the virus can spread through the mail. But delivery services are taking precautions.

Most Read