YAKIMA, Wash. — The Yakama Nation has asked the federal government to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline across southwest Washington’s White Salmon River, saying the project will impair an archaeological site that is culturally significant to the tribe.
The line is being built to replace a small section of a 4,000-mile pipeline, stretching from Colorado to the Canadian border, which has been gradually unearthed since a dam was breached on the river last year.
The company building the line, Williams Northwest Pipeline, of Salt Lake City, said Monday that it consulted with state and federal agencies and with three Native American tribes, including the Yakama Nation, before moving forward with the project and believes it has acted in good faith to follow all required regulations.
The Yakama Nation claims otherwise in recent letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The tribe urged the commission to order an immediate halt to construction and asked for the pipeline company to conduct an environmental assessment to determine the potential for harm to the site.
The location of the new pipeline sits in the tribe’s ceded lands, where tribal members retain the right to hunt, fish and gather roots and berries.
The pipeline company and the federal agency are violating laws that protect historic sites, Ruth Jim, Yakama Nation councilwoman said in a statement.
“Current construction cannot be sustained without additional destruction of significant archaeological resources," she said.
The pipeline, about 26 inches in diameter, had been buried under the White Salmon River. When Portland-based utility PacifiCorp breached the dam last year, the stream bed gradually eroded.
At one point, 15 feet of soil cover over the pipeline had washed away, Williams Northwest spokeswoman Michele Swaner said.
“We thought, ‘We could watch this or we could take some action,’" she said. “So we got the pipeline out of the river."