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Oil spill clean up efforts continue on tribal lands

INDIANOLA — A week after nearly 5,000 gallons barge oil spilled into the Puget Sound and infiltrated what was known as a pristine saltwater wetland, clean up efforts are moving in a different direction.

Oil spill response officials and Suquamish tribal members met Jan. 8 to discuss new recovery strategies for the tribe’s preserve next to Camp Indianola.

The Dec. 30 oil spill at Point Wells, near Edmonds, spread across the Sound to the Doe-Keg-Wats Marsh, a Suquamish tribal wetland and severely impacted the shoreline between Indianola and Point Jefferson.

After a week of placing booms in the water to prevent further spread and absorption of the oil, response and tribal officials met Monday morning to discuss new options.

Suquamish tribal spokesperson Leonard Forsman said the tribe met with various state and federal agencies, including the Department of Ecology, the U.S. Department of Interior and Department of Fish and Wildlife on Monday morning.

Following the meeting, Suquamish Tribal council members were discussing possible damage assessment processes.

Forsman said national responder damage assessments experts were being brought in.

“They have the experience in spills in Puget Sound and nationwide,” Forsman explained. “They have been forthcoming with the information on how the process will work.”

The council is considering several ways to go about assessing the damage, including developing a trusteeship, which call for the tribe and state and federal agencies to pool their resources. Tribal council has tentative plans to meet Jan. 9 to make a decision.

Forsman said tribal staff members have been involved with other clean up efforts in the past, such as Elliott Bay and the Duwamish River, but the tribe has never been the lead agency. There is a lot at stake, Forsman said, due to the sensitive shellfish beds and wetland environment as well as the tribe’s ceremonial grounds that were polluted by the spill.

“Eventually, we’ll be monitoring the beaches for a long time to make sure we (are) monitoring the impacts that the spill had,” he said.

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