Airport Plans Divide Tule Lake Stakeholders


The road leading to the entrance of Tulelake Airport with Abalone Hill in the background. (Photo by Martha Nakagawa)

The road leading to the entrance of Tulelake Airport with Abalone Hill in the background. (Photo by Martha Nakagawa)


By MARTHA NAKAGAWA, Rafu Contributor

Currently, the Tule Lake Committee (TLC) and various stakeholders are in discussions as to how to resolve the issue of the local municipal airport proposing an expansion in the middle of the former Tule Lake Segregation Center.

The various stakeholders include, among others, the TLC, the Federal Aviation Administration, Modoc County, the owners of the airport, and the various businesses that rely upon the airport, such as the farmers, fertilizer companies and manufacturers of chemicals used in crop dusting.

The airport, used mainly by crop dusting airplanes for local farmers, sits on about two-thirds of the former Tule Lake camp. A past camp firebreak that ran through the middle of Tule Lake has been converted into the airport runway.

Three years ago, the TLC gathered hundreds of signatures and letters to temporarily halt construction of a proposed three-mile-long airport fence that would have run through the center of the former camp site.


David Misso stood in protest during the interfaith ceremony at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

David Misso stood in protest during the interfaith ceremony at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)


Barbara Takei, TLC chief financial officer, noted that the involvement of Janet Eidsness was also instrumental in temporarily halting the fence construction.

“Without her help, we would have an eight-foot-high, three-mile-long fence keeping us out of the Tule Lake site,” said Takei. “She stepped forward to help the Tule Lake Committee and did an environmental critique of the environmental study done by the county. Her work criticizing the county’s report led to state officials re-evaluating it.”

According to Eidsness, she received a phone call from Takei, seeking her help. Eidsness was well-known for her work with various California tribes over preservation issues.

Eidsness was also familiar with the Tule Lake camp site since she had worked as an archeologist for the National Park Service at the Lava Beds National Monument during the late 1980s into the early 1990s.

When Takei explained to Eidsness about the TLC’s effort to stop the proposed airport fence, she asked to read the various reports done by the local government.

“I reviewed the archeologist’s report and found it was totally inadequate,” said Eidsness. “First, he said there was nothing left, that there was nothing on the ground, so the first thing I did was use GoogleEarth (the application that allows viewers to see satellite images of the Earth’s surface) and flew over Newell, California and the airport. Well, I said, gee, underlining the airport runway was one of the main (Tule Lake) firebreaks.”

Eidsness then discussed with the TLC about Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the importance of a Traditional Cultural Property.

“Section 106 is one of the real important, key federal laws that says if you have an important historical site, that you have to fairly consider the impact of your project,” said Eidsness.

Since then, Dr. Thomas King, who, along with Patricia Parker, wrote the “Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties” for the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, has also taken an interest in the Tule Lake issue.

King and Eidsness spoke at a workshop at the pilgrimage, updating the attendees as to the status of the Tule Lake site and efforts to preserve the area.

Unlike the Manzanar site, which was mostly owned by the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water after the war, the Tule Lake site has numerous property owners.


George and Brad Takei make an offering during the Tule Lake interfaith service along with other pilgrims. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

George and Brad Takei make an offering during the Tule Lake interfaith service along with other pilgrims. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)


According to Tule Lake/Lava Beds Superintendent Larry Whalen, “The Park Service manages 37 acres (of the former camp site). In addition, there is Camp Tulelake, as well as the Peninsula (Castle Rock) site. All of that adds to about 1,800 acres. Then there’s about 900 acres of the camp that is in other public, private ownerships, and then there’s the airport. Modoc County also has several pieces of property, as well as managing the road, so at this point, the important thing is to put together partnerships so that we can interpret the entire camp, not just the 37 acres.”