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Tokul roundabout tit for tat? Tribe seeks scrutiny for Snoqualmie Falls road fix
While the Snoqualmie Tribe’s hotel expansion plan is drawing scrutiny from Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, that city’s upcoming Tokul roundabout is drawing notes of concern from the tribe’s leaders.
Tribal council members urged “caution and care” in the roundabout project, which revamps Highway 202 and could pave the way for new development near the Snoqualmie nation’s most sacred place.
Last Monday, Dec. 10, the Snoqualmie City Council approved a key piece of funding for the project, planned for the area between Snoqualmie Falls Park and the State Route 202 bridge. Construction of a single-lane roundabout would include storm drains, lights, pedestrian walkways, landscaping and offsite mitigation.
The Snoqualmie Tribe has consistently opposed development at the Falls, which the tribe holds as its creation site. A letter to the city signed by Tribal Chairwoman Shelley Burch and 11 other members of the tribal council calls for safeguards at the Falls, listed in 2009 as a Traditional Cultural Property by the National Register of Historic Places.
“There are many development initiatives in the city and this region, but there is only one Snoqualmie Falls,” tribal council members stated.
On the city’s to-do list for several years, Tokul Roundabout was a candidate site for state transportation grants in 2009. That crucial funding fell through. Shelved but shovel-ready, that project quickly came onto the front burner this fall, however, as new funding popped into place.
On November 16, the city got a Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) grant for $3 million. The city adds local construction funds of $500,000, and the Muckleshoot Tribe, owners of the Salish Lodge and Spa, adds $1.67 million. The city will go out for bid next February.
Mayor Matt Larson said the tribe was fully involved when the roundabout was originally proposed. Larson admits that the tribe should have been notified sooner about the project’s restart earlier this fall. However, “we don’t feel they’ve lost an opportunity to address it,” he added.
The mayor says that the project would receive the same scrutiny as a Traditional Cultural Property as it did under eligibility status, which it held during initial planning. The city will commission a new cultural resources assessment to go over the site, “to ensure nothing’s been missed,” Larson said. “We absolutely will take their concerns seriously.”
We feel we have, to date,” he said. “They’ll have an opportunity to have a tribal representative on site,” to make sure everything of archaeological or cultural value is accounted for.
“At the end of the day, this is going to be an improvement,” the mayor argued. “It’s going to move that road away from the river,” and away from the area that’s of greatest cultural value to the tribe.
Larson, who publicly expressed concerns over the size and scope of the tribe’s future Snoqualmie Casino expansion, said that the timing of the roundabout discussion is coincidental.
“Maybe it looks like a little tit-for-tat…. I don’t think there’s any intentional nexus,” the mayor said. “It’s a matter of coincidence and timing.”
There are multiple layers to the city’s relationship with the tribe, Larson says, and both parties are doing an effective job of segregating divisive issues.
“There are always going to be things that we’re pulling in the same direction,” the mayor said, referencing things like talks on the future of Snoqualmie Valley Transportation bus service or mitigation funds from the tribe that help city services like the Snoqualmie Community Center.
“If we’re constantly suspending progress because one side is in contention, we’d never get anywhere,” the mayor said.
• You can learn more about the Tokul roundabout at http://www.ci.snoqualmie.wa.us/Projects/RoadsInfrastructureProjects/TokulRoundabout.aspx.