Photo by Puyallup Tribal News staff
Chairman Bill Sterud testified virtually before the state Senate Transportation Committee today in support of legislation that would smooth land exchanges with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). The legislation would remove the requirement that a tribal government must waive sovereign immunity and agree not to place property into trust status in order to participate in exchanges for property that requires environmental mitigation. Chairman Sterud pointed out that waiving sovereign immunity can be a non-starter in negotiations, and typically such exchanges begin with the state approaching a tribe and asking for land to support a construction project. The Tribe has recently negotiated with the WSDOT to return about 118 acres to the Tribe in exchange for land to support a highway construction project increasing transportation down to the port. Much of the land, due to being wetlands, will be used for environmental and fisheries enhancement and restoration. The Chairman gave a similar testimony to the House Transportation Committee on Jan. 24. The bills are SB5930 and HB1934.