Yesterday, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, Regional BIA Director Bryan Mercier, and several senior BIA advisors visited three Columbia River tribal fishing access sites.
At the Cooks In-lieu Site, Assistant Secretary Newland announced that $880,000 had been provided by the Biden-Harris Administration to upgrade the water and sanitation systems at Cascade Locks, Ft Rains (Bonneville), and Cooks tribal fishing access sites. He announced these critical investments from the banks of the Columbia River along with leadership of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission who operate and maintain 31 fishing sites along the Columbia River that are for the use of fishers from the commission’s four member Tribes: Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakama and Nez Perce.
“Operational, efficient and resilient water systems are necessary to protect our communities and fulfill our agency’s trust responsibilities,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “This investment will allow us to address challenges such as climate change and chemical contamination that impact the aging water systems of Indian Affairs, so that we can continue to provide safe drinking water for Indigenous communities.”
“Access to clean water is a fundamental human right,” said CRITFC Executive Director Aja DeCoteau. “For decades, tribal fishers here have struggled trying to meet this need. The water system improvements this funding will make possible will improve the health and dignity of tribal fishers and their families living along the Columbia River.”
The funding, which comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will cover engineering and design services for infrastructure upgrades at the three sites needed to address water sanitation and contribute to the progress being made on projects authorized under the Columbia River In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites Improvement Act. That Act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to assess sanitation and safety conditions at BIA facilities that were constructed to provide affected Columbia River treaty tribes access to traditional fishing grounds and expend funds on construction of facilities and structures to improve those conditions.
The assessment of all the sites that was authorized in the Act is nearly complete. It includes engineering assessments, input from tribal leadership, and site use and reports from tribal members who live or fish at the sites. Tribal leadership will use the assessment to determine projects and funding requests over the next several years to address needs at all the 31 sites along the Columbia River.
Click here for the broader announcement of tribal water system funding from the Department of Interior.