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Court rules Yakama Nation mining lawsuit can proceed

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled the Yakama Nation can move forward with its lawsuit to halt the expansion of a gravel mining project that it says could disrupt a cultural and burial site. 

The court decided Thursday that the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation filed a timely appeal against paving materials supplier Granite Northwest's proposal to expand mining from 26 acres to more than 160 acres, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

Granite Northwest has been seeking to expand after it announced it was running out of gravel at its Rowley Quarry to meet demands for road and construction projects.

The construction would cross into the north side of the Yakima ridge, dividing Yakima and Selah, an area the Yakama Nation said was once a tribal fishing village that included burial grounds.

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Yakima County decided the expansion could proceed arguing that the tribe had not filed an appeal of the county's decision within the 21-day window required by the state's land use petition act.

The Supreme Court disagreed and said the appeal was filed in a timely matter.

"The Yakama Nation maintains its inherent sovereign rights to its ancestors' remains and cultural resources wherever they may be," Tribal Council Chairman Delano Saluskin said. "We are pleased that the Supreme Court allowed our lawsuit to proceed to protect our ancestors from this proposed gravel mine."

The Yakama Nation began the appeal process after the county issued a conditional use permit and a State Environmental Policy Act determination of nonsignificance for the area in 2018.

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