Biden Administration reverses decision to sell Seattle National Archives

President Joe Biden's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that it has withdrawn the approval of the sale of the Seattle National Archives and Records facility.

Acting on a recommendation under the Trump Administration, OMB decided the monster building and property were too expensive to own and operate and should be sold. Its contents would have been moved out of state, most likely to other National Archives sites in California and Missouri. 

Since 1963, people have gone to the building along Sand Point Way NE in Seattle to access government and tribal records from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. Some of those records go back more than two centuries.

RELATED: Losing our local history? Elected leaders launch fight to save National Archives at Seattle

As of January 2020, the building was in need of more than $2 million in repairs and could've cost roughly $350,000 a year to run, which was a factor in the sale of the facility. 

Newly-confirmed Acting Director of OMB, Shalanda Young, wrote in a letter to the Public Buildings Reform Board

"I am writing to withdraw OMB’s January 24, 2020 approval of the sale of the Federal Archives and Records Center, 6125 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115. That facility was included in the Public Buildings Reform Board’s (Board) resubmittal of its high value property recommendation to OMB on December 27, 2019, pursuant to Section 12 of the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act of 2016 (FASTA)." 

The Public Buildings Reform Board led the process for the sale of the facility. 

Young also said in the letter that a large reason for withdraw is the fact that tribes were not consulted about the sale of the facility. 

"Any effort to sell the Federal Archives and Records Center in the future, through any available and appropriate authority, must comply with at least two substantial requirements. First, it must be preceded by meaningful and robust tribal consultation, consistent with the President’s January 26, 2021 Memorandum on Tribal Consultation. Second, it must proceed through the appropriate administrative process, based on a new factual record, and must comply with the attendant substantive and procedural safeguards of that process," her letter read

In March of this year, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell called on the OMB to reverse the sale. 

Just weeks after her letter to OMB, the office reversed the approval of the sale of the facility. 

"OMB, under the Biden administration, has come to its senses. It believes denying a population access to its historic records is wrong. I’m glad they are going to continue to allow Tribal communities to access this important information," Cantwell said on Thursday in response to the news. 

Cantwell wasn't the only entity working to stop the archives sale. 

Back in February, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to stop the sale of the National Archives.

On Jan. 4, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, along with 29 tribes and various groups, filed a lawsuit seeking to declare the sale illegal.

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