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Seattle City Light DEBRA SMITH, General Manager and CEO
Boundary Project
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Archaeological and historic resources are part of our shared heritage. Removal of artifacts and vandalism of sites is punishable by law. Please help protect the past for present and future generations.

Preserving Cultural Resources

The lower Pend Oreille River valley has a rich and varied cultural history, spanning over 10,000 years of human occupation. To better understand and protect cultural resources throughout the Boundary Hydroelectric Project area, Seattle City Light works in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Kalispel Tribe of Indians, and consults with the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

City Light conducts surveys, monitors site conditions, evaluates site eligibility for protection under the National Historic Preservation Act, and implements site protection and data recovery measures in areas affected by Boundary Project operations.

In 2017, as the Boundary Project turned 50-years-old, City Light, in consultation with the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, determined that the project was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The project was formally listed on the National Register on May 1, 2018. As such, City Light is responsible for managing the Boundary Project in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. To access the full National Register Historic Places Registration form, please click here.

Archaeologist Screening
Archaeologist screening excavated soil for cultural materials.

Pre-Contact Period

The Boundary Project lies within the traditional territory of Interior Salish-speaking people, and more specifically, the Lower Kalispel Indians. The Lower Kalispel shared many traditions with other Interior Salish tribes, such as seasonal travel for subsistence procurement; lacustrine or river settlement with a subsistence emphasis on fish, land game, and vegetable foods, especially camas; and communities linked by family relations and trade.

The Kalispel were particularly adept at canoe travel, so much so that they were often called "river paddlers," and the Pend Oreille River remains important to Lower Kalispel cultural identity.

Kalispel Indian Village
Kalispel Indian Village on the Pend Oreille River, ca. 1908.

Today's Kalispel Indian Reservation was established on March 23, 1914. The reservation is located in Usk, Washington, approximately 55 miles north of Spokane in Pend Oreille County, along 10 miles of the Pend Oreille River. The Kalispel Tribe currently consists of about 450 members and their families, with about one-third of the membership living on the reservation.

Historic Period

The earliest Euro-American settlers to the lower Pend Oreille River valley were trappers and traders associated with the British North West Company, which dominated the interior Northwest fur trade in the early nineteenth century. David Thompson, for example, explored the Pend Oreille River in 1809, reaching as far as Box Canyon. However, settlement was sparse on this section of the Pend Oreille River until gold was discovered in the 1850s.

1889 Log Cabin of Carl Harvey
Ca. 1889 log cabin of Carl Harvey, an early prospector in Pend Oreille County. Photo taken in 2013.

The town of Metaline originated as a mining district named by hopeful prospectors looking for gold and other precious metals in the mid-1850s; the town of Metaline Falls was named for the falls on the Pend Oreille River. As it turned out, the area possessed relatively meager gold deposits, but vast deposits of lead and zinc made the Metaline Mining District the most prominent mining district in Washington State between the late 1920s and 1950.

Canoeist at Powerhouse near Metaline Falls
Canoeists paddling near the Pend Oreille Mines and Metals Company powerhouse, constructed in 1937.

By the early 1900s, large numbers of homesteaders discovered the woods of northern Pend Oreille County as a place to settle. They realized they could make a living from the timber and came to the area before any market for logging even existed. Once the Idaho and Washington Northern Railroad reached Ione in 1909, and Metaline Falls in 1910, the timber industry boomed. By 1914, the timber industry was paying over half of all wages earned in the northeastern corner of the state.

Loggers in bunkhouse
Loggers in bunkhouse, Metaline Falls, ca. 1904.

In 1951, the City of Seattle commissioned a study of undeveloped potential hydropower sites in the state of Washington. Based on the study's findings, the City of Seattle applied for a permit to build a dam on the Pend Oreille River approximately one mile downstream of "Z Canyon" and one mile upstream from the Canadian border. Construction of the Boundary Project was completed in 1967.

1965 Dam Construction
Construction of intake tunnels, Boundary Dam, April 1965.

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