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Tule Lake Committee makes counter offer for Tulelake airport land

TULELAKE — An offer to more than double the amount the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma has agreed to pay for the city of Tulelake to purchase the land underlying the Tulelake Airport has been made by The Tule Lake Committee — a group interested in preserving the history of the Japanese-American internment camp there during World War II.

In a letter sent to Tulelake Mayor Hank Ebinger on Thursday, Barbara Takei, the committee’s chief financial officer, said the group will pay $40,000 for the property, well over the $17,500 the city negotiated with the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma.

The Tulelake City Council voted in favor of the sale to the Tribe earlier this month and is scheduled to consider the sale following a public hearing at its July 31 meeting. Under terms of the tentative contract, the Modoc Tribe, based in Miami, Okla., will buy the underlying land for $17,500. The contract stipulates the airport will continue to be used as a public airport.

The Tule Lake Committee includes the descendants and increasingly smaller number of Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated at the Tule Lake Detention-Segregation Center during the World War II years of 1942 to 1946. At its peak, Tule Lake held more than 18,000 Japanese Americans, more than two-thirds of them U.S. citizens. The airport is located on a portion of the former center.

Several years ago, the Tule Lake Committee filed legal action against the city along with Modoc County, which owns the airport, and Macy’s Flying Service, which leases the airport. The suits came after Modoc County announced plans to erect a 3-mile long, 8-foot high fence around the airport to prevent possible airplane-wildlife collisions.

In its suit, the committee claims the fence “would desecrate the site” and said the group had been working to a settlement “to protect and preserve the site for future generations.”

Michael Colantuono, the attorney who has represented Tulelake in negotiations with the Modoc Tribe, could not be contacted for comment on whether the city also negotiated with Tule Lake Committee or what might be the result of the group’s recent offer.

In her letter Takei wrote, ”The Tule Lake Committee is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the public interest in protecting the historic integrity and access to the Tule Lake Segregation Center, a National Historic Monument. We are planning to attend the public hearing on the (July) 31st to reiterate our offer to purchase the Tulelake airport land the city of Tulelake is preparing to sell to the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma.

“The Tule Lake Committee offered more than twice the amount the city of Tulelake and the Modoc of Oklahoma negotiated as the price for the airport land. We are hopeful the city of Tulelake will consider and accept our offer.”

Takei’s letter also says the committee “seeks to work with all parties, in good faith, to preserve a rare historic property that tells a multi-layered story of the impacts our government’s policies had on the communities of people who lived and died at the Tule Lake site.”




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