Waldo Lake, Floatplane Ban and the Threat of Invasive Species

Honor the treaties, protect sacred sites for all future generations

The Oregon State Aviation Board will be holding a public hearing regarding Waldo Lake on Thursday, Jan. 31, from 6 to 8 pm. This hearing will be held in the Ken Long Conference Room at the Willamalane Center in Springfield.

My family, the Tuftis (descendants of Charlie Tufti, credited for discovering “Waldo Lake”), of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs of Oregon, are the original inhabitants of this area for at least 8,000 years, according to archeological data. We are the descendants of the Southern Molalla, Chakgeenkni-Tufti Band that migrated seasonally from the highlands of Waldo Lake to the low lands near Fall Creek.

To view what is now known as Waldo Lake as merely a place of “recreation” is robbing our future generations of this country’s pristine beauty and pure, fresh drinking water. With the outrageous amount of privatization of water resources, we need to be very aware of what is at stake in these urgent times. If we as treaty rights holders do not stand up for our rights, protect the commons and create alliances with non-natives, then we will sit idly by while our earth is put into private ownership and irreversibly destroyed.

The Waldo Lake lawsuit was filed by a group of motorboat and seaplane owners, including Eugene timber heir Steven Stewart; Portland resident Aron Faegre, president of the Columbia Seaplane Pilots Association; and Albany resident Keith Kendrick, president of Waldo Lake for Everyone!

The 1850 Donation Land Claims Act made it possible for white families to file for free land upon settlement, in compensation for “settling in a dangerous frontier area.” Meanwhile, our Indigenous families were being forced to reservation lands, lands deemed as “useless, desolate and uninhabitable.” This and later inequities created a class division, sense of entitlement to our homelands by non-natives and given the Stewart family and many others, the opportunity to build intergenerational wealth due to white privilege.

To this day our Indigenous families continue to live in poverty on reservation lands. The Stewart family claims to have “traditional” ties to our homelands. But the disproportionate disbursement of wealth has made it possible for Stewart, Faegre and Kendrick to file a personal lawsuit against the state of Oregon to keep motorboats on a pristine lake, while our family cannot afford that type of legal representation to protect our ancestral lands.

As far as who controls the lake, none of any of the suit filers do for that matter. There is much to consider in historical relevance of this area and treaty law, which is far too often overlooked. As much as these men would like to use their money, social clout and power to gain control, this area remains ceded lands of the Molalla people, which falls under a treaty signed by our Molalla ancestors from Grand Ronde, Warm Springs and several other areas within the state. These rights we hold as descendants are protected under constitutional law. These treaties that were signed in the mid 1800s are a government-to-government agreement, granting non-natives permission to take residency, which they have taken full advantage of.

We have been marginalized as Indigenous people for far too long. Our families hold the history of this country prior to colonization, and hold knowledge of the land incomparable to our fellow non-native citizens. As treaty rights holders, our rights are protected under constitutional law, law that could protect our resources, the commons, for all, Natives and non-natives alike.

Under OAR 738-040-037: Waldo Lake access and the use of seaplanes with “certain restrictions.” Rule 4 states: “Seaplane pilots shall screen their aircraft for invasive species prior to landing at Waldo Lake. Any invasive species discovered shall be removed prior to arrival at Waldo Lake.”

How do you screen a craft for invasive species if the species are in the form of microscopic or nearly microscopic seeds, eggs, bacteria or other organisms that could damage an environment that is so unique? Does the pilot do the screening? Are the pilots also biologists? Are they using scientific equipment to screen or are they just looking at the plane to see if there’s a zebra mussel hanging off it? Do we take their word for it that they screened their planes? If someone didn’t screen their planes, would anyone know? Many may find it ironic to go to a place because of its unique beauty using a conveyance that threatens to destroy its unique beauty.

Rule 6 states: “Pilots are required to notify the Department of Aviation, using an FAA flight plan form within 48 hours of departure from Waldo Lake to empirically document usage. The department shall keep track of seaplane operations to quantify the scope of usage.” The rule says the flight plan report shall include
a point of contact including phone number, time of arrival
and the time of departure.

Rule 7 states: “Landings as a result of an aircraft emergency are at the discretion of the pilot in command of the aircraft and are not subject to this rule.”

In other words, in the event of an emergency, the pilot in command does not have to abide by these documentation rules and all environmental protection rules are out the window, so to speak, in the event of an “aircraft emergency.” Another point to consider is how often float planes crash. And in this particular situation, what type of irreversible environmental damage would be done then?

All motorized crafts need to be banned in order to protect this fragile, unique ecosystem. And if anyone so chooses to kayak, canoe, swim, etc., it will be at their own risk, for no emergency backup will be provided. It is the only way to protect this area, for even the environmental impact from scientists conducting studies could alter this sacred site forever.

To view OAR 738-040-037: Waldo Lake access and the use of seaplanes with certain restrictions, please visit http://wkly.ws/1f1 or call the Oregon Department of Aviation: 503-378-4880