Tule Lake Committee Files Lawsuit to Stop Fence on Camp Site

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The outlines of the Tule Lake National Monument and of the Tulelake Municipal Airport are superimposed on a wartime photo of the Tule Lake Segregation Center.

The outlines of the Tule Lake National Monument and of the Tulelake Municipal Airport are superimposed on a wartime photo of the Tule Lake Segregation Center.

ALTURAS — The Tule Lake Committee on Monday filed suit in Modoc County Superior Court to stop Modoc County and the City of Tulelake from consideration of leasing and fencing the Tulelake Airport until conducting a public environmental review process.

State law requires study and mitigation of impacts to the historic property on which the airport sits, including consideration of alternatives to the proposed fence. The reasons for putting up the fence are to prevent vandalism of aircraft and prevent collisions with wildlife.

The Tulelake Airport occupies the middle of the Tule Lake concentration camp site, where over 18,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly imprisoned during World War II. Tule Lake became the nation’s segregation center, where the government punished those who protested their massive incarceration.

“We had no choice but to file a lawsuit to stop the destruction of the Tule Lake site,” said Hiroshi Shimizu, who chairs the Tule Lake Committee. The committee is devoted to educating the public, to remembering and preserving Tule Lakeʼs history, and to preventing similar injustices in the future.

The committee circulated an online petition (www.Change.org/tulelake) to stop the fence construction, obtaining over 25,000 signatures and comments, and established a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/StopTheFence.

“Despite our objections, the county is moving ahead on plans to build an 8-foot-high, 3-mile-long fence on the site of the former Tule Lake concentration camp,” said Shimizu. “This massive fence would desecrate a unique civil rights historic site and close off access to descendants and anybody wishing to remember Tule Lake.”

Modoc County and the City of Tulelake, in agreeing to extend the county’s lease of the Tulelake Airport for 30 years, failed to conduct environmental review required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), according to Susan Brandt-Hawley, an expert in California historic preservation law and attorney for the Tule Lake Committee.

“The fence is an integral part of the lease extension and airport operation,” Brandt-Hawley wrote in the committeeʼs petition to the court. “This long-term lease extension … may result in significant impacts to historic resources of national importance and to immediate surroundings such that the significance of such resources would be materially impaired.”

The lawsuit asks the court to order the county and city to set aside the 30-year lease extension for the Tulelake Airport land and to refrain from any physical construction while the case is pending.

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