NW Regional Director Stanly Speaks
Bureau of Indian Affairs
911 N.E. 11th Avenue
Portland, Or. 97237
It has come to our attention that the Nisqually Indian Tribe has proposed to build a ‘Regional Jail Facility’ in Olympia, Washington. The Nisqually Tribe has a proposal that states it will house up to 277 inmates in Phase 1 and up to 576 inmates in Phase II. The Nisqually Indian Tribe recently acquired the land where they are planning to build this facility by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Fort Lewis) 179.14 Acres, more or less. This acquisition appears to have taken 10 years and 4 acts of Congress to go through. There is a bill in the 108th Congress reflecting this information. The Federal Register states that the land was officially acquired on September 14, 2010.
Our concerns vary greatly, but they all revolve around these two key questions.
Firstly, is this land in question now, “sovereign” or is it still under trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. At what time in this land acquisition was the Bureau notified of the Tribe’s land use prior to receiving the land. The Regional jail site is in a residential neighborhood and abuts several homes on both the North and West sides and is less than one mile from developments and rural county homes. If this land is not officially sovereign how could a project of this magnitude have gone through without the proper hearing and zoning regulations that our county requires for land use.
Second, why would our Government support such a project when our county pushed through $45 Million for a jail that was recently built only 10 miles from this parcel? Thurston County commissioners funded a 100,000 square foot, state of facility that has reached completion but still stands VACANT. If the Nisqually Jail project is completed it would almost nullify the prospect of our county’s facility from becoming viable since the Tribe would be contracting with the same jurisdictions for inmates.
In the Environmental Assessment provided for the Nisqually Indian Tribe from the GeoEngineers dating July 1, 2010 it states: “The Tribe has also held discussions with Fort Lewis to explore the possibility of locating the proposed project on Fort Lewis property in close proximity to the existing tribal facilities, but no appropriate site was identified.” What studies did Fort Lewis or the Nisqually Tribe do to show that there were NO other appropriate sites available for this complex? We see that they also looked at adjoining Natural Resource land. How could this parcel be the only viable parcel for this jail? Regardless if any other parcel were available for this project, the project is not necessary at this time due to the other vacant new facility.
Our County has expressed concerns regarding this project that also include environmental impacts, noise issues, water issues, increased traffic and foot traffic as well as property values decreasing and privatizing jails for profit. The county has formed a committee: StopNisquallyJail and has obtained over 600 signatures in 6 weeks to STOP the construction of this jail. Please consider are concerns and please understand this is not a tribal versus non-tribal issue. The issue is that we do not need or want another jail of this capacity nor do we want a jail in a residential area close to children and schools.
Thank you for your attention to this matter,
Justine Schmidt (StopNisquallyJail@blogspot.com)