The Makah Air Force Station, located in the northwestern-most corner of Washington State, was to be vacated by the Air Force. Since World War II, the site had been leased from the Makah Indian Tribe and individual tribal members. The site is very remote, accessed by a winding highway, and requiring a drive of about five hours from Seattle. The Air Force station represented a self-contained village, complete with its own housing, dining halls, administrative buildings, health care and recreation facilities, water supply, heating and a sewage treatment plant.
Unless alternative uses could be found for the site, the Makah Indian tribe would face an annual income loss of about $225 thousand. This was a significant potential loss to the tribe, since the tribe is very small, tribal unemployment was very high, and nearly half of the Indian population lived in households classified below the federal poverty level.
We inspected the site and facilities, evaluated them for their re-use potentials, and the costs required to convert and operate in new uses. The Makah Tribal Council expressed their objectives and concerns for the station’s use, and we discussed potential alternative uses for investigation. Based upon in-depth analyses of alternative uses and guidance from the Tribal Council, we prepared a strategic re-use plan. Potential new uses studied included:
- A tribal cultural center/activities center;
- An artists’ center;
- Educational institutional facilities – such as a community college or a facility operated by one of the state universities for archaeological and/or marine research and local outreach teaching;
- Forestry operations;
- Manufacturing, such as processing of wood waste products;
- Expanded marine fishing operations and fish processing;
- A substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation center;
- A mineral (polymetallic sulfides) exploration service and supply base;
- Rental housing;
- A destination resort/meeting/conference center;
- A camp for use by churches, scouting, or school groups;
- A joint venture with a large defense contractor (with some manufacturing component at the station); and
- Various federal government uses, such as a military training center, National Guard facility, or a job corps center.
The contracting agency was the Office of Economic Adjustment, U.S. Department of Defense. Seton, Johnson & Odell, Inc. and Fred Glick Associates, Inc. were sub-contractors to Dornbusch Associates.