Fifty-eight million dollars is a lot of nickels. Maybe the linkage to the new gas tax is not perfect, but the state's decision to abandon a dry-dock project at Port Angeles burns...

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Fifty-eight million dollars is a lot of nickels. Maybe the linkage to the new gas tax is not perfect, but the state’s decision to abandon a dry-dock project at Port Angeles burns money that is tough to raise.

The gripe here is not about a reverence for history, but a gnawing suspicion that motorists dutifully paying their taxes are eating this expense because no one quite knew what they were talking about.
In the future, authorities should spread the risk and the financial burden around. Nation to nation, the tribes should be asked to help subsidize the expense and consequences of protecting history. Not thousands to defray a quick look-see, but substantial sums to create a pool of money — a real resource.

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Gov. Gary Locke said the state would honor a request by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to stop work at the site of an ancient village where hundreds of skeletal remains were found.

The cash-strapped state Department of Transportation was constructing a staging area for projects related to the replacement of the eastern half of the Hood Canal Bridge.

Public-versus-private contracting aspects of the project had been controversial long before the first remains or artifacts were discovered, but that, too, is ancient history.

For now, it appears the state poured money into a big hole, and it needs to find a place to build pontoons and anchors for a bridge segment that needs replacement.

Divining the location of archaeological sites will never be easy. Tribes were dispossessed of land, and subsequent uses buried historic properties and treasures beneath fill, industrial debris and other refuse.

Successfully identifying important sites will involve tribal records, maps and historical research. All were apparently invoked here, along with professional surveys by the state and tribe. No one anticipated what was discovered as construction resumed.

If the stakes are high, and the mission is important, the care taken to avoid expensive surprises has to increase as well. That all costs money. Spread the financial risk, nation to nation.