Lake Roosevelt
Administrative History
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Agreements and Disagreements: From Tri-Party Agreement to Multi-Party Agreement (continued)

Act of June 29, 1940

With waters rising rapidly, Congress finally enacted legislation, drafted by Reclamation and the OIA, to acquire Indian lands for the Grand Coulee project. A few months prior to passage, John C. Page, Commissioner of Reclamation, had suggested wording to tighten up the language concerning Indian rights. This limitation was needed, he explained, to help the Bureau "sponsor the greatest possible development of reservoirs" by working with other federal agencies. He believed that the limits of any reserved rights had to be clearly defined before the agencies could effectively plan their work. [10] The Act of June 29, 1940 (Acquisition of Indian Lands for Grand Coulee Dam, 54 Stat.703), gave the United States "all the right, title, and interest of the Indians in and to the tribal and allotted lands within the Spokane and Colville Reservations," up to 1,310-foot elevation, except at the Klaxta townsite where the government was allowed to take lands above that line. In addition, the act gave the government the right to take additional reservation lands "from time to time" as needed for utilities and roads in connection with the Grand Coulee project. The Secretary of the Interior was allowed to determine "just and equitable compensation," with payments for tribal lands being transferred to the appropriate tribal account. Compensation due to individual owners was transferred to the Superintendent of the Colville Agency to credit to the person's account. The Secretary of the Interior was then permitted to use these funds to purchase other lands and improvements or move existing improvements to a new site to benefit the allottee. [11]

Section 1 of the 1940 Act contained a key paragraph that has generated more confusion, controversy, and pages of legal opinion than probably any other document pertaining to the Grand Coulee project. It states,

The Secretary of the Interior, in lieu of reserving rights of hunting, fishing, and boating to the Indians in the areas granted under this Act, shall set aside approximately one-quarter of the entire reservoir area for the paramount use of the Indians of the Spokane and Colville Reservations for hunting, fishing, and boating purposes, which rights shall be subject only to such reasonable regulations as the Secretary may prescribe for the protection and conservation of fish and wildlife: Provided, That the exercise of the Indians' rights shall not interfere with project operations. The Secretary shall also, where necessary, grant to the Indians reasonable rights of access to such area or areas across any project lands. [12]

The Committee on Problem No. 26, set up to provide guidance for the recreational development of the reservoir area, wrestled with the implications of this paragraph. What area was included in "approximately one-quarter of the entire reservoir"? What did "paramount use" mean? What rights were Indians giving up in exchange for one-quarter of the reservoir? "Isn't the setting aside of one-fourth of the entire reservoir area for the paramount use of the Indians going to create some serious difficulties?" asked one committee member. [13] The problems became immediately apparent and during the next year, state and federal officials planning the new recreation area realized they needed help, particularly from the Indians. Unable to obtain advice from the tribes, a subcommittee appointed to clarify the 1940 Act concluded that the area reserved for Indians applied to the water only and recommended that this be adjacent to reservation lands. It further determined that "paramount" was not "exclusive," so non-Indians could fish in an area designated for the paramount use of the Indians as long as they had a special license like that needed for fishing on reservation lands. Details for administration of the area set aside for the Indians would be worked out between the OIA and the agency chosen to administer recreation in the new reservoir. [14]

Across the lake, the Colville Business Council tried to make sense of the same issues. Mr. Adolph, a Council member, noted that Indians had not been consulted prior to either construction of the dam or passage of the Act of June 29, 1940. "And still today, we were not asked what did we want," he reminded the Council. "The 1/4 that was offered to us, there is a question as to where it may be taken. Therefore, I say let us take it slowly and consider it thoroughly as far as our lake rights are concerned." Following questions from other Council members, Colville Agency Superintendent Robertson said that one-quarter of the total reservoir area would amount to approximately 22,255 acres, yet if they used the reservation boundary of the middle of the river, the Indians would get over 33,600, an increase of more than 11,000 acres. Mr. Lemery picked up on this point. Remembering the loss of the north half of the reservation, he challenged fellow Council members: "We Indians are dumb and I guess we got to admit it," he said. "If you consent to concede these 11,600 acres, you are conceding your right to the boundary in the middle of the river. I think you should stand on your ground, and if you have to bring a suit, you should do it." Carthon Patrie, OIA Acting Regional Forester with the Colville Indian Agency, agreed that the Council did not need to rush this matter but he applied some pressure by suggesting that the sooner they could tell the Secretary what they wanted, the more favorable response they would get. He thought they could probably get the reservoir area bordering the reservations out to the thread of the river. By the end of the meeting, the Council refused to accept the terms of the Act of June 29, 1940, and instead chose "to retain all rights, powers and privileges heretofore held by them by virtue of previous treaties and/or agreements between said Indians and the United States Government." [15]

The Spokane Indians reacted with similar concerns. At a tribal council meeting held in January 1941, Superintendent Robertson gave figures for one-quarter of the reservoir area but explained that if the Indians got all of the Spokane River and half of the Columbia River where they bordered reservations, they would get 40,480 acres. He told them that the Secretary of the Interior had authority to set this much land aside for the tribes, but he wanted to hear views from the Indians. After much discussion, the Council passed a resolution "that we should have all the rights and full control of the entire Columbia Basin Lake, to the 1310 level, where it borders on the Spokane reservation, as long as these rights do not interfer [sic] with the operation of the Grand Coulee project; provided that the acceptance of this area does not jeopardize any claims the Spokane Indians may have because of losses sustained by the tribe." [16] Late in 1941, a delegation of members from both the CCT and STI went to Washington, D.C., to protest the limitation of their rights directly to the OIA. The outcome of this trip is unknown. [17]

Local OIA officials reiterated the Indians' statements and noted that both tribes were more concerned about their rights than the amount of land. They recognized the great potential for both commercial and recreational development of the new reservoir and they wanted to be able to participate. There was still great resentment on the reservations over the way land acquisition had been handled, and Superintendent F. A. Gross warned, "There is far more at stake than the hunting, fishing, and boating privileges interpreted in the strict sense of the meaning of these words." He went on to make several farsighted recommendations, many of which were finally embodied in the 1990 Multi-Party Agreement. These included Indian rights in an area of more than 40,000 acres; full control, including licensing, over activities and concessions for fishing, hunting, and boating between the 1,310 line and the thread of the Columbia and on the entire Spokane River; a deciding vote on decisions to allow commercial, business, grazing, and other uses on the freeboard lands adjoining their reservations; exemption from federal and state fishing regulations; and finally, steps to prevent pollution of the reservoir. [18]

Interagency Agreement

In addition to working through the implications of the 1940 act, many of the same people were working on a memorandum of agreement for planning, development, and administration of recreation in the reservoir area. Both Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes and National Park Service Director Newton B. Drury had approved negotiations among the Park Service, Reclamation, and OIA. Indeed, the results were a foregone conclusion, and the announcement that the Park Service would soon be taking over jurisdiction of the reservoir was released nine days before the agreement was drafted. The agency relied heavily on its experience at Boulder Dam National Recreation Area, and Boulder Superintendent Guy D. Edwards played a key role in producing the agreement. Edwards arrived a week early to meet with Claude E. Greider, State Supervisor, and Raymond E. Hoyt, Chief of the Recreation Planning Division. Greider and Hoyt had written a rough draft based on the interbureau agreement used at Boulder Dam. They were joined by Charles L. Gable, Chief of Park Operators Division, and the four men refined the draft to eliminate items that had not worked well at Boulder Dam. Edwards and Greider then drove to Coulee Dam to represent the Park Service at the meeting to formally draft the interbureau agreement. [19]

Attending the meeting on September 25-26, 1941, were F. A. Gross, Superintendent of the Colville Reservation; Carthon R. Patrie, OIA Regional Forester; Melvin L. Robertson, Colville Indian Agency; L. N. Runnels, Colville Business Council; Claude E. Greider, State Supervisor for the Park Service; Guy B. Edwards, Superintendent at Boulder Dam NRA; Frank A. Banks, Reclamation Supervising Engineer; Philip R. Nalder, Reclamation Associate Engineer; and the Land Clerk from the Colville Indian Agency. Edwards warmed up the group with a presentation on Boulder Dam NRA, discussing its history, development, and administration. Greider then took over and presented the agreement. Discussion proceeded paragraph by paragraph, and the group referred as needed to both the MOA for Boulder Dam NRA, approved on October 13, 1936, and the Cooperative Agreement between the OIA and the Park Service concerning the Hualpai Indian Reservation, approved November 11, 1937. [20]

Although they made few changes in the draft agreement during two days of negotiations, each of the three agencies was able to present its views. Reclamation was concerned about its potential liability for injuries or damages due to landslides, so a special clause excluding them from damage suits was inserted into the agreement. The OIA remained concerned about Indian rights and insisted on having the authority to approve any leases or permits for use of the freeboard lands adjoining the reservations. In addition, it wanted to ensure that fees from licenses, permits, and leases for hunting, fishing, and boating in the area were used to benefit Indians. The Park Service balked, however, at the OIA's request to assume total jurisdiction over the Indian lands acquired under the 1940 act and insisted on administering all the lands as the only way to implement Park Service objectives. The agency further argued that a strict interpretation of the 1940 act gave Indians one-quarter of the water surface and only a "reasonable right of ingress and egress across the strip of land between the water surface and the 1310 line." At the conclusion of the meeting, a draft MOA was in place and endorsed by all attendees. [21]

This draft agreement never went into effect because Park Service Director Drury wanted to wait until detailed studies of the recreation area were completed and the agency had resolved the question of the area's national significance. The Director received a copy of the document within a week of its signing in September 1941, along with a memo from the Regional Director who stressed the importance of securing adequate funding to administer the new area before signing the agreement. Formal agreement on management of the recreation area remained in limbo until Reclamation and the Park Service signed a memorandum of agreement on July 22, 1942, that assigned planning and administration of the area to the Park Service. This was renewed annually through 1946. [22]

1945 Solicitor's Opinion

The question of Indian rights under the Act of June 29, 1940 (Acquisition of Indian Lands for Grand Coulee Dam), continued to concern the agencies working in the newly formed reservoir area. There were calls for a Solicitor's opinion as early as September 1941 when Leroy D. Arnold, OIA Director of Forestry, suggested that such a decision was needed "to obviate any possible unpleasant misunderstandings or disagreements later on." [23] Two years later, Walter V. Woehlke, with the OIA in Chicago, urged the Secretary to define Indian rights soon and went on to offer his interpretation of their paramount rights. These included the right to hunt and fish, without license fees, within the exterior boundaries of their reservations; the right to build and operate docking facilities and rent boats, all without license fees; and the right to use shore lands to water stock. In addition, he urged that the OIA be given jurisdiction over all the freeboard land within reservation boundaries. [24]

Predictably, both the Park Service and Reclamation objected to Woehlke's ideas, particularly the suggestion that the OIA manage reservation shore lands. Greider stressed the need for a single agency to maintain full administrative responsibility throughout the reservoir area, and he claimed that the public interest would not be served by Woehlke's plan to give Indians exclusive rights along the shore. "Undoubtedly, any qualified agency responsible for the administration of the area as a whole could amply provide for all legitimate interests of the Indians," wrote Greider, "and accomplish it in a manner that would not jeopardize certain esthetic, recreational, or other values which should be preserved." [25] Frank A. Banks agreed and added, "I am somewhat concerned because of the change in attitude of the Indian Service officials." [26]

The controversy and bickering ended, at least for a while, with the Solicitor's Opinion of December 29, 1945. Solicitor Warner G. Gardner did not resolve all issues and he left key decisions to the Secretary of the Interior, but he did lay the groundwork for nearly thirty years of jurisdiction at Lake Roosevelt. According to his opinion, the one-quarter of the reservoir area to be set aside for the Indians could include freeboard lands as well as water area, if the Secretary wished. Specific areas had to be allocated to the tribes, either one area to be shared or two separate areas; Gardner suggested that the one-quarter area be divided according to population, with 75 percent going to the CCT and 25 percent to the STI. Furthermore, these lands should be adjacent to or near reservation lands to ensure rights of access to the reservoir. "Other things being equal, this means that they should be located along the former shoreline of the Indian lands," wrote Gardner. The rights of ingress and egress across the freeboard lands should be proportionate with the intended use of the Indians' part of the reservoir. For instance, tribal members would be allowed to build a reasonable number of docks for their boating operations and could build other structures to use in hunting and fishing. On the question of rights, Gardner ruled that "the special rights granted to the Indians under the act were themselves obviously deemed to be a form of compensation for the riparian rights of the Indians for which no separate compensation had been made." While these were not exclusive rights, the Secretary had the power "to make the Indian rights exclusive where necessary to insure the realization of their privileges." Gardner refused to decide whether Indians had the right to grant licenses to others, but he did rule that they should not be charged fees for hunting, fishing, or boating and would be subject only to reasonable regulations to help protect and conserve wildlife. [27]

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Last Updated: 22-Apr-2003