Monday, June 7, 2010

Tribe vote planned on hatchery

Ute tribal leaders are moving forward with plans to hold a referendum to let their membership decide whether to rescind the resolution that approved construction of the controversial Big Springs Fish Hatchery. The resolution was passed 16 months ago by five of the six members on the tribe’s governing Business Committee. Its purpose is to protect the area for historical religious rites — the water from the springs is used in the sacred Sundance ceremony. It officially designates boundaries and specific sites in the Big Springs area as sacred and protected “continually and perpetually … against development except to enhance the ecosystem, beauty and sacred use of the area.”

However, those opposed to the federal hatchery project at Big Springs maintain that it has crippled access to and use of the sacred waters. A decision by voters to rescind the Business Committee’s resolution could spell the end of the hatchery project which is close to 90 percent complete. Should that happen, it is likely the tribe will have to repay the federal government for the construction costs, said Business Committee Chairman Curtis Cesspooch. “I am pretty sure we will have to repay all the government money, we will have to repay the contractors,” Cesspooch said. There is an additional impact that tribal members need to be aware of as well, he said. “If we do go back on the contract that is going to give us a black eye and that will put us in jeopardy in our other departments for receiving the (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) stimulus money,” Cesspooch said. The tribe has invested $1.7 million of its own money in the hatchery which would be lost as well, he said. Vernal Express