Congress votes to compensate Spokane Tribe for flooded lands

SPOKANE — About 70 years after their traditional homelands were flooded as part of the reservoir for the Grand Coulee Dam, Congress approved a new system of paying the Spokane Tribe for the land it lost.

The House gave final approval Monday and sent to President Donald Trump a bill that sets up a schedule of yearly payments to the tribe based on a similar system for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, who also lost land when the dam and reservoir were created.

Under the agreement, the Spokane Tribe would receive $6 million a year for 10 years, and $8 million a year after that. The money would come from revenues of the Bonneville Power Administration, which sells electricity generated by Grand Coulee and other federal dams in the Northwest — not from tax money.

Trump is expected to sign the bill. Evans said former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited the reservation in 2018 and expressed support for the compensation.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said members of the state delegation have tried for more than a decade to get compensation for the tribe. Plans sometimes passed one chamber, but not the other. This year it passed the Senate in June and the House on Monday evening, both on voice votes.

“It was a long time to get justice,” Cantwell said. “We really did feel like it was important and we just wanted to do what was right.”

The Spokanes and the Colvilles both had reservation land in the area flooded by the […]

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