Photo courtesy of Tule Lake Committee

By P.C. Staff

The Tule Lake Committee on July 28 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 Tulelake Airport occupies the middle of the Tule Lake concentration camp site, where more than 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 remembering and preserving Tule Lake’s history and preventing similar injustices in the future. The Tule Lake Committee circulated an online petition ( to stop construction of the fence, obtaining more than 25,000 signatures and comments opposing its construction.

“Despite our objections, the county is moving ahead on plans to build an eight-foot high, three-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 an environmental review required by the California Environmental Quality Act, noted 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 Tule Lake Committee’s 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 Modoc County and the city of Tulelake to set aside the 30-year lease extension for the Tulelake Airport land and refrain from any physical construction while the case is pending.

For background documents regarding “Stop the Fence at Tule Lake,” visit

Originally published on August 8, 2014


  • dmp says:

    Oh no. I was just out there yesterday to take pictures and I sincerely hope this suit was not lost and a fence has not been approved. What a travesty that would be!

    I have done some very modest education about this place on the Google Earth Community and a photo-sharing website called Ipernity. I’d love to get an update on this story to post under my photos. (I live in nearby Klamath Falls, Oregon.)

  • Van Maren King says:

    I learned today of the plans coordinated through your office to place new permanent construction (security fencing) around a large portion of the WWII encampment site. I also learned that since the 1950s, Modoc County has been quietly operating a municipal airport placed there which include an agra air operation involving toxic materials handling, storage, and discharge. This is a sad state of affairs, given the National significance of the site as part of our collective memory, heartache, and wisdom.

    Wake up! There is a serious transgression afoot. Blindly, to further advance these earlier desecrations, the County with funding from Mr. Trump seeks to humiliate and marginalize the memorialized and sacred barracks sites by building a fence-line on top of their foot-print, around the County airport and crop-dusting operation (aka toxic materials site). All of this has been placed there without comment since the early 1950s. Our consciousness has risen since those early post-war days No question, the greatest value and best use of said site to the County and to the Nation is as a memorial, pure and simple. Lest we forget…

    It is the scene of a colossal crime that must never be repeated and must be preserved and with dignity presented as a constant collective reminder to behave and love one another. Therefore we must not build on it or use it for any other purpose that would distract from its significance. Instead the County should set about re-zoning the area as a National Memorial and Historical Site, and phase-out the dis-respectful and non-conforming uses as an airport / toxins depot, or any other irrelevant use.