City, Mayor Respond to Claims Construction Near Snoqualmie Falls Irresponsible, Say Tribe Never Claimed Area Sacred Burial Site During Years of Discussions

In response to a Letter published on September 1, 2015, claiming the bulldozing of trees for a roundabout construction near Snoqualmie Falls was “irresponsible and disrespectful” to the Snoqualmie Tribe, the City of Snoqualmie offered a FAQ answering some citizen concerns.  tokul roundabout 1

Mayor Larson also offered additional clarification in a personal response below the FAQ’s.

On Wednesday, September 2, 2015  at 7PM, the Save Snoqualmie Falls coalition will celebrate the sixth anniversary of Snoqualmie Falls’ placement on the National Register of Historic Places and rally against what they call the “irresponsible development of sacred land.”
The rally takes place in the upper parking lot at Snoqualmie Falls Park where supporters will speak out about the controversial bulldozing of what they claim are “ancient burial grounds” and the “planned development of sacred forestland adjacent to Snoqualmie Falls.”
City of Snoqualmie Tokul Roudabout FAQ’s
What are the benefits of the Tokul Roundabout?

The Tokul Road Roundabout will improve safety of existing traffic by eliminating two intersections whose existing road geometry does not meet current safety standards.

These intersections are located at (1) SR 202 and SE Tokul Road, and (2) SR 202 and SE Mill Pond Road, The intersections are currently extensively utilized by heavy trucks traveling from SR 202 to the sand and gravel mine located in unincorporated King County to the northeast of the former Weyerhaeuser mill site.

The existing intersections add traffic to the heavily traveled SR 202, which accommodates regular traffic along SR 202 plus nearly two million tourists annually traveling to Snoqualmie Falls. They will be reconfigured and combined into one, single-lane, modern roundabout, which will control vehicle speeds and access, and will increase safety to those traveling along the SR 202 corridor.

Specific benefits of the Tokul Roundabout include: (1) making it a safer for drivers to access Snoqualmie Falls and Historic Snoqualmie; (2) making it safer for Snoqualmie Falls Park visitors and local pedestrian travelers on foot or bicycle to travel between Snoqualmie Falls Park and Historic Snoqualmie; (3) making it safer for the through traffic along this stretch of SR 202 due to decreased speeds, improved signage, and reduced traffic conflict points; and (4) upgrading the storm drain systems to current storm water quantity and quality standards.

Is the Tokul Roundabout also being constructed to accommodate future development of the adjacent land?

Public capital transportation projects are expensive. To maximize public tax dollars, the City of Snoqualmie always ensures that transportation projects are designed to provide safety and traffic circulation for not only existing traffic, but for anticipated future traffic. Increased traffic is expected to be generated by development of property within the vicinity of the project. The Tokul Roundabout is no exception to this practice. It would be irresponsible for the City of Snoqualmie to do otherwise.

The Snoqualmie Tribe has been very vocal in their criticism of this project. Has the City of Snoqualmie addressed their concerns?

The City of Snoqualmie has been consulting with the Snoqualmie Tribe on this project since 2006, when the City of Snoqualmie contracted with a professional archaeologist to perform fieldwork and prepare a Cultural Resources Assessment report on the Tokul Roundabout site.

The purpose of the archaeologist’s work was to determine whether artifacts or other cultural objects might be located on the site of the roundabout. The Snoqualmie Tribe did not comment on the details of the exploratory work to be performed within the roundabout site (shovel probes and excavation at 34 different locations on the project site). Neither did the Snoqualmie Tribe comment on the resulting Assessment Report issued in February 2008. The report concluded that the archaeology work had not identified any significant prehistoric or historic resources, that the existing ground surface was already extensively disturbed, and that the roundabout project was unlikely to significantly affect Snoqualmie Falls or any other historic resources near the project.

The Snoqualmie Tribe did not respond to a December 2008 letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soliciting information from the Snoqualmie Tribe. In 2009, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers then issued the City of Snoqualmie a permit needed for construction of the Tokul Roundabout.

When construction was about to begin in late 2012, the Snoqualmie Tribe commented in writing to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, asking it to suspend the City of Snoqualmie’s previously-granted permit so that additional consultation concerning the Snoqualmie Tribe’s Snoqualmie Falls Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) could occur. (The Snoqualmie Falls TCP is a designated site on the National Register of Historic Places, delineated by Snoqualmie Falls, the plunge pool under Snoqualmie Falls, and the rim around Snoqualmie Falls). A two-year consultation process began. In that process, the Snoqualmie Tribe informed the City of Snoqualmie and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the Tokul Roundabout would have an adverse effect on the Snoqualmie Falls TCP, which is one-half mile away and not visible from the roundabout site.

In January 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the City of Snoqualmie. It called for the City of Snoqualmie to hold a meeting with the Snoqualmie Tribe to hear the Tribal Council’s comments on the City’s comprehensive plan; to spend up to $10,000 on public outreach in the form of two Town Hall meetings concerning the importance of Snoqualmie Falls to the Snoqualmie Tribe; to maintain a page on the City’s website addressing the relationship of the Snoqualmie Tribe to Snoqualmie Falls; and to make up to $50,000 available to the Snoqualmie Tribe for the purpose of funding projects related to furthering the study, education, outreach, and/or cultural heritage of the Snoqualmie Falls area. After the MOA was executed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the City’s previously-suspended permit, allowing construction of the Tokul Roundabout to begin.

What is the City of Snoqualmie’s response to the Snoqualmie Tribe’s concern that the project is being constructed on a sacred site?

The City of Snoqualmie respects the Snoqualmie Tribe’s religious practices and beliefs. From the City’s perspective, the Snoqualmie Tribe did not contend during either of the two consultation processes with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the roundabout site was a sacred site.

The first time the City if Snoqualmie heard of this statement concerning the roundabout site was when the Snoqualmie Tribe placed an ad in a local paper in July 2015, after construction was well underway. The ad also stated that the Snoqualmie Tribe “cannot stop the construction of the Tokul Roundabout.”

During the consultation process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Snoqualmie Tribe informed them of the Tribe’s desire to have the boundary of the Snoqualmie Falls TCP modified because the Tribe opposed development in the vicinity of Snoqualmie Falls, and an expanded TCP would allow the Tribe to focus on a much larger area than the current TCP boundary allows for.

The Tribe also stated its belief that the roundabout will lead to additional development, which will mean more traffic and more people, and will detract from the overall experience at Snoqualmie Falls. The Tribe also stated that an expanded TCP will provide the Tribe a role in conversations about proposed developments in the vicinity of Snoqualmie Falls.

During the consultation, the Tribe did not tell the City of Snoqualmie (or, to the City’s knowledge, the U.S. Army Corps) that the roundabout location itself was a sacred site. The City is not aware of any information supporting that designation.

The development in the vicinity of Snoqualmie Falls to which the Snoqualmie Tribe’s comments to the U.S. Army Corps referred is the proposed expansion of the Salish Lodge & Spa on 60 acres of property located to the north and east of Snoqualmie Falls, across SR 202 and above the existing Snoqualmie Falls Park parking lot. The Salish Lodge & Spa and the 60 acres are owned by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, which purchased the property and rights under a development agreement applicable to it in 2007.

Does the City of Snoqualmie have a response or statement regarding the artifact found at the Tokul Roundabout construction site?

A single cultural artifact was found by the City of Snoqualmie’s outside, professional archaeologist. The archaeologist has been monitoring construction ever since ground disturbing activities began.

Details of the artifact were reviewed by professional archaeologists at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. It was concluded that this was an isolated find and did not warrant further National Register eligibility, additional consultation or mitigation, or a stoppage of construction.

The archaeologists also reviewed the protocols followed by the City of Snoqualmie’s contractor during construction and stated that the protocols were appropriate. The archaeologists provided a high degree of confidence that other artifacts were not present. The site has been graded down to glacial till, a concrete-like geological formation that, because of its hardness, is considered by archaeologists to be “culturally sterile” and not the source of additional cultural or historic materials.

The City of Snoqualmie repatriated the artifact to the Snoqualmie Tribe in a private ceremony, free of charge or any obligation.

In addition to these FAQ’s, Mayor Matt Larson provided a personal response with further clarification:

The development agreement with the Muckleshoot Tribe allows for the construction of 175 homes (15% affordable) located further North on the Tokul Road beyond the current upper parking lot and beyond the future Salish expansion project, roughly ½ mile from the Falls and well out of view.

While they are often at odds and compete with one another, the Muckleshoots and Snoqualmies share a common heritage and ancestry, as well as current family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). Consequently, the Muckleshoots have similar concerns about how culturally sensitive sights are treated. While the cultural aspects are real, it is important to keep in mind that competitive economic interests are also driving the Snoqualmies opposition. The Snoqualmie Tribe plans to build a 300 room hotel on their reservation next to the Snoqualmie Casino. They do not want a competing Tribe building a (expanded) hotel in the Valley. As you may recall, the Snoqualmies were very upset that the Muckleshoot Tribe prevailed in purchasing the Salish several years ago. And three years ago, the Seattle Times ran a story about the Snoqualmie Tribe proposing to build a 20 story hotel in the Valley.  

The Snoqualmie Tribe never stated that the site of the Roundabout was a sacred burial site during our discussions these past several years. We first learned of such an assertion when the ad ran in our local paper. In fact, archaeologist have noted that NW tribes usually placed their dead in canoes and put them up in cedar trees. As a consequence, any traces of biological matter quickly disappeared.

The City has a strong track record of being very sensitive to Tribal concerns about the Falls. The developer of Snoqualmie Ridge originally proposed building hundreds of homes along the ridge on the southern side of the river so that they could have spectacular views of the Falls. The City refused to allow such development and, in fact, required that no structures from the Snoqualmie Ridge development could be visible from the Falls. The City also successfully opposed the proposed Falls Crossing development that would have been located in the wooded area behind the current fire station. We go to great lengths to develop in a way that protects cultural sites and the spectacular natural assets that we all cherish and enjoy.


Matt Larson



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  • “The development agreement with the Muckleshoot Tribe allows for the construction of 175 homes (15% affordable) located further North on the Tokul Road beyond the current upper parking lot and beyond the future Salish expansion project, roughly ½ mile from the Falls and well out of view.”
    “The Snoqualmie Tribe plans to build a 300 room hotel on their reservation next to the Snoqualmie Casino.”

    It’s nice to see both of these items in writing in a public place. In the past it’s been very difficult to get someone from the City to admit to these development activities. ‘Phase 3’ has been a rumor for a while, and 175 homes sounds like the start of a ‘Phase 3’. I also remember personally hearing a tribe representative say in a city council meeting at the fire station, that they had no plans to build a hotel near the casino, and that they couldn’t anyway because there wasn’t a large enough water main to the property. The hospital purchase likely provided the necessary water main capacity. It’s good to see transparency on the development planned for our valley.

  • Interesting article from the City of Snoqualmie. Too bad Mayor Larson would not go into such detail with the city hiring of the terminated police officer from Tukwila, as he does with the tribe in this article.

  • Living Snoqualmie