To address the impacts of climate change, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides funding specifically for tribal communities to address climate-related threats. In line with these efforts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a regulation requiring consideration of tribal reserved rights when establishing state and federal water quality standards. In response, we worked alongside the UC Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic to support the Yurok Tribe in making a submission to the EPA.
The Yurok Tribe is the largest Native nation within California with over 6,400 members, and the Yurok People have always lived along the Pacific Coast and inland on the Klamath River – the River is considered the lifeblood of the people. Water quality is of great importance to the Yurok Tribe, since a substantial portion of its history, culture, identity, spirituality, and economy is derived from the Klamath River and its resources.
The comment commends EPA’s efforts to require states to evaluate tribal reserved rights to aquatic and/or aquatic-dependent resources in an area or downstream of an area when developing new and revised water quality standards. The Tribe’s comment also suggests additional language to the Proposed Regulations to further support Tribal sovereignty and explains ways to ensure that Tribal members can meaningfully exercise their fishing rights while ensuring their health and safety—and the health and safety of the resources themselves—are adequately protected.