The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to pay the Yakama Nation for costs related to cleaning up a contaminated island in Washington’s Columbia River.
YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to pay the Yakama Nation for costs related to cleaning up a contaminated island in Washington's Columbia River.
The Yakama Nation sued the Corps in 2014, arguing that tribal members weren't compensated for helping plan the cleanup of Bradford Island, reported The Yakima Herald.
The island is a historical tribal fishing spot, but it also became a dumping ground for waste from the Bonneville Dam for decades. Lead, mercury, PCBs and petroleum chemicals leaked into the Columbia River, resulting in warnings against eating fish caught in the area.
U.S. District Court of Oregon Judge Anna Brown ruled earlier this week that the tribe's cleanup costs should be covered under Superfund laws.
But she denied the tribe's motion to be reimbursed for prohibiting fishing in the island area. Brown wrote in an order that the issue will have to be sorted out in trail.
“For decades, the Corps dumped toxic waste directly into the Columbia River and on Bradford Island,” said JoDe Goudy, chairman of the Yakama Nation.
“The Yakama Nation was forced to take the Corps to court to do what it should have done in the first place — pay for the tribe's costs and allow it a seat at the table to make critical decisions about cleanup that affect our treaty fishing rights,” added Goudy.
The tribe's attorney, David Askman, said he believes the decision sets and important precedent for tribes trying to protect their resources.
“To our knowledge, this is the first time a tribe has received its costs of action under Superfund laws by a court of law,” he said.