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

For the past year-and-a half, the Tule Lake Committee was poised to organize another community protest to stop construction of a destructive, obtrusive airfield fence on the Tule Lake concentration camp site.

We’ve been waiting for the Federal Aviation Authority and Modoc County to complete mandatory environmental review of the proposed fence project, a process that includes public comment on the draft environmental reports.

We have been informed these studies will be completed in another three or four months. We will notify you then, as your comments will be critically important in the effort to STOP the FENCE from being constructed. We ask that you be ready to tell government officials why it is important to preserve the only War Relocation Authority concentration camp converted into a maximum-security facility used to punish and deport protesters. Be prepared to help us persist and resist government efforts to pave over the Tule Lake concentration camp site.

Background on Stop the Fence Campaign

After a token 37-acre portion of the 1,110-acre concentration camp was designated as a National Historic Landmark (2006) and added to the Valor in the Pacific National Monument (2008), the Tule Lake Committee saw the threat to the site’s preservation due to FAA and Modoc County plans to enlarge the footprint of the Tulelake airfield with an improved runway and hangers and the airfield fence.

Significance of the concentration camp site was underscored by congressional action in 2019 when Tule Lake was designated as a stand-alone National Park site and renamed as the Tule Lake National Monument. Yet, the FAA and Modoc County continue to press forward on “improvement” plans, refusing to explore the alternative of moving the rural airfield, given the impossibility of moving a historic site.

It’s been eight years since more than 38,000 organizations and individuals protested the FAA and Modoc County plan to build a massive 3-mile-long, 8-foot-high fence, an intimidating warning to visitors that would destroy the setting, feeling and association aroused by this rare civil and human rights site.

In response to nationwide outrage, the FAA and Modoc County were compelled to undertake mandatory environmental review to study fence impacts. The two studies, a draft Environmental Impact Report and an Environmental Assessment, are nearing completion. We await the public comment period for these documents, the time to oppose any destructive, incompatible uses of the concentration camp site.

Help us challenge racially insensitive government policies that sanction paving over an American concentration camp and the erasure of civil rights history. Take a moment to consider Tule Lake’s impact on your family, and the failures to grapple with this darkest chapter in the Japanese American incarceration story.

When the FAA and Modoc County open the comment period this fall, our community must send a clear and strong message, “Protect Tule Lake, don’t destroy it.” Please watch for updates and stay vigilant!

Litigation Settlement Talks Over the Tulelake Airfield

In other news, the Tule Lake Committee is discussing settlement of pending lawsuits in Federal Appeals Court and Modoc County Superior Court over the City of Tulelake’s July 2018 sale of the Tulelake airfield. We are encouraged and hopeful that the parties can agree on appropriate uses and activities for a site where 331 Japanese Americans died and where thousands more lives were destroyed.

Since 2014, the Tule Lake Committee has filed five lawsuits addressing two issues: seeking comprehensive environmental review over the proposed fence on the concentration camp site, and lack of due process in the city of Tulelake’s July 2018 giveaway of the Tulelake airfield.

The Tule Lake Committee’s most recent lawsuits, Tule Lake Committee v. FAA, et. al. and Tule Lake Committee v. Bill Follis, et. al., seek to void transfer of the Tulelake airfield to a party that promised to expand aviation-related activity on the Tule Lake concentration camp site. Both cases are temporarily stayed as parties work toward settling issues of access and protecting an irreplaceable civil rights site from incompatible, destructive activity.

We are encouraged in the search for resolution of these issues and grateful to the team of attorneys who have generously donated their time to prevent bulldozers from destroying the fabric of a rare social justice site. The Tule Lake Committee appreciates and looks forward to your vigilance and support to preserve Tule Lake.

For more information, visit www.Tulelake.org.

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