Quinault Indian Nation moving 500 acres to federal trust

QIN to gain sovereign control over tribe-owned land near Hogan’s Corner, plans to expand Q-Mart

The Quinault Indian Nation has received approval to transfer about 500 acres of tribally-owned land near Hogan’s Corner north of Ocean Shores into the trust of the federal government, and plans to expand on existing businesses there.

Once transferred, the property will be held under the title of the United States government in the tribe’s interest, giving the tribe, rather than Grays Harbor County, jurisdiction over the land.

The property consists of 13 parcels in total. One 15-acre parcel located just north of state Route 109 and east of Hogan’s Corner will be used to expand on the existing Q-Mart to include a gas station, car wash, convenience store, espresso stand and electric vehicle charging stations, while the rest — 12 parcels containing stormwater ponds, a small airstrip and three airport hangers — is dedicated to “tribal self-determination.”

The Northwest Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs recently approved the nation’s request for the land transfer and delivered the decision on May 4 to Grays Harbor County commissioners, who reviewed the decision at a Tuesday board meeting.

Federal law — the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 — gives the Secretary of the Interior authority to transfer land into federal trust, but only for tribes that were federally recognized at the time the act was passed.

Placing the land in trust allows the tribe to make land-use decisions in its accustomed area, “allowing the nation to exercise its jurisdiction as a sovereign tribal government,” and ensures the land won’t be used “contrary to the nation’s governmental, historical and cultural interests, and, in this case, provide more economic opportunities.”

The Quinault Indian Nation couldn’t be reached by press time to give an estimated timeline for the Q-Mart expansion. According to the bureau, the nation will benefit both from tax revenue and the income from new businesses. The tribe’s business plan estimates the project could generate a $9.1 million total return on investment in five years, including $7.5 million from tax revenue.

The property will not be used for gaming purposes, according to the bureau.

Other than the new businesses, integrating 500 acres back into the nation’s sovereign land base will put the nation in a better position to receive grant funding from federal agencies, who sometimes distribute awards based on total tribal acreage, roads and infrastructure.

The nation first requested the Department of Interior transfer the land into trust in 2020. At that time, the department notified the state and Grays Harbor County, and didn’t receive comments or objections from either government.

Of the 13 parcels set for transfer, 11 are situated under a state tax exemption program. The two remaining parcels — 180 acres containing the airstrip and southwest of the state highway intersection — pay a little over $7,700 in property taxes among Fire District #7, North Beach School District, Hospital District #2, as well as a number of other general county taxes.

Upon transfer into trust, the tax burden of those parcels will be distributed among other property owners in the same districts, but the amount should be minimal, likely “pennies on the dollar,” said Grays Harbor County Assessor Dan Lindgren, and will not have a major effect on taxpayers or the taxing districts.

According to the bureau, a prior agreement with the county gives Quinault law enforcement power over newly-created trust lands. Once designated tribal lands, the county sheriff’s office, emergency services and police can work in cooperation “where applicable.”

According to the bureau, anyone wishing to submit a legal appeal of the land transfer decision can send a request to the Department of Interior within 30 days of the receipt of the decision, and must first “exhaust administrative remedies.” The land transfer will become official June 4 without appeal.

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or clayton.franke@thedailyworld.com.