Celebrating 100 Years of the Ballard Locks, Marking What Has Been Gained and Lost

Remarks as prepared at the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Ballard Locks:

Good morning and happy Fourth of July!

I’m Pramila Jayapal, your Congresswoman for our beautiful 7th District of Washington! I am so proud to represent such a ground-breaking place with such rich history and sense of community. Everyone in the D.C. says they have the best district, but I really do have the best district.

And happy 100th anniversary to the Ballard Locks! It’s an honor to say a few words to mark the 100 years of prosperity and community for Ballard, for Seattle and for our state as a whole.

The Ballard Locks are the most heavily used locks in the entire United States, with more than 40,000 transits and over 1 million tons of freight moving through each year. Annually, more than 1.25 million people from across the globe come here to visit the locks, making them the top tourist destination in Seattle. Those of us who live in Seattle bring our kids here to take in the wondrous journey of the salmon and to enjoy the awesome power of the natural world.

People coming to visit our Locks each year generate $40 million in spending impacts. And on top of that, the Locks generate about $545 million in revenue for fisheries from Oregon to the North Pacific. Three thousand jobs depend on this system. There is A LOT to celebrate on this 100th anniversary!

But at the same time that we celebrate the economic boon to our region, we must also pause and acknowledge what was taken and lost. We are on Native land here, and as our own Corps spokesman, William Dowell, articulated so well in the Seattle Times a few days ago, “Don’t get me wrong, I love the Locks. But they would never have been built today.”

Their construction cut off the Black River, dispossessed Native communities, and seriously damaged Native fishing practices.

So, today, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary, we lift up the communities whose livelihoods, cultures and practices suffered as a result of this construction. And we rededicate ourselves to ensuring that all those who come to the Locks understand its full history and the cost to the Native people.

And before we take a step into the next 100 years, please join me in taking a brief moment of silence, a pause to consider the abundance of this beautiful place and the abundance of lessons provided to us in its history.

It is in this spirit that we will fully value what we have, and continue to be a region that balances commerce, the environment and tribal rights. Today, I also thank the United States Army Corps, the Muckleshoot Tribe and the Suquamish Tribe for the extensive work and knowledge that teaches us more each day about our salmon runs, water quality and sustainable ecosystems, and how to build and maintain this marvel of a place that has done so much to grow our economy.

In Congress, I am doing all that I can to make sure the locks are treated as a national infrastructure priority and that we continue to protect our environment. This week, I will be introducing a resolution onto the House floor to mark this 100th year anniversary, our gains, our losses and our history — and to call for the full funding of the extensive repairs and maintenance needed to preserve our Locks and keep them safe. The Locks are included in an infrastructure report I released in May outlining 22 projects in our district that I will be pushing for in Congress. I will also be pushing to make sure that any redevelopment includes a commitment to working with the Tribes to fully educate our community about how these gains came to be and the need to fully acknowledge the sovereignty and rights of our Native communities as we develop projects.

We know the locks need extensive work to ensure they are strong, invulnerable and safe; that our salmon populations are healthy and thriving; that our fisherman and maritime industry are well-equipped; that our native tribes are respected and heard; and that our city’s history is preserved and passed down to our children and our children’s children and to the children who will be here a century from now.

I am proud to use my platform in Congress to push hard for all of this, and I look forward to working with all of you on that.

Thank you all for coming here today and being a part of our history. Thank you for visiting our Locks; for working on, around and for this place; for being engaged advocates and community members and for sharing in this incredible moment.

And most of all, thank you for creating and cultivating the spirit of our community that is a model across the nation.

Happy fourth of July!