Legislation to compensate the Spokane Tribe for lands lost as a result of Grand Coulee Dam’s construction passed the U.S. Senate on Thursday.
The bill would authorize annual payments from the Bonneville Power Administration to the tribe for the past and continuing use of the land. U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both D-Wash., introduced the legislation.
In a March visit to the Spokane Indian Reservation, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke in support of compensating the Spokane Tribe for damages to tribal lands that were submerged when Grand Coulee went into operation. The dam is the nation’s largest hydroelectric facility.
In 1994, with the help of then-House Speaker Tom Foley, the Colville Tribe received a $53 million settlement for its losses from Grand Coulee Dam, plus annual payments based on power production and prices. In contrast, the Spokane Tribe received an initial payment of $4,700 for damage caused by the dam, but has not been able to renegotiate the settlement.
Settlement legislation for the Spokane Tribe has been introduced every year since 2000, but has never passed in both the Senate and the House.
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