by: Richard Thompson Updated:
Olympic Peninsula, Wash. - Controversy is brewing on the Olympic Peninsula over the shutdown of Lake Quinault to all non-tribal members.
The President of the Quinault Indian Nation told KIRO-7 the tribe is concerned about pollution in the lake and a drop in fish populations. President Fawn Sharp said some private homeowners around the lake have failing septic systems that are causing problems. "The lake is polluted. We had some hot spots our scientists detected, and they are now undertaking some testing," said President Sharp. The president said tribal members are still allowed to use the lake because they are relatively few in number. But others who call Lake Quinault home said that just doesn't make any sense. Brenda Sansom, who lives on the lake, told KIRO-7 if the lake is polluted, "it should not be safe for anybody, tribal or not."
Many businesses in tourist areas are going to take a hit if people who come to stay at places like the Lake Quinault Lodge are not able to swim and boat. "It will be a huge impact on our community," said Sansom. "It's not a pollution issue," said Tom Iverson, who owns Lochaerie Resort with six cabins on the water's edge. Iverson said he is angered by the closure because he has had the lake water tested himself and found it clean. "We've had it tested and it is pure as the dickens," Iverson told KIRO-7. Iverson believes the closure has more to do with a number of political issues than it has to do with pollution.
President Fawn Sharp said politics are not playing a role in the tribe's decisions. Sharp said the lake has real pollution issues that need attention. "We're just at a point in time where we have to address these issues," said President Sharp.
Lake Quinault will remain closed to non-tribal members through the summer while water testing is done and a plan is created to address the environmental findings.