By FENIT NIRAPPIL
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced $43 million for Native American environmental projects in Arizona, California and Nevada, including ones that respond to drought as extremely dry conditions persist across large swaths of the Southwest.
Tribes stand to receive money for a variety of needs, including cleaning open dumps, establishing waste-water systems, and improving community outreach and educational programs. The annual funding is distributed among 148 tribes with territories that make up half the land in Indian Country.
“In many cases, they’re poor, rural communities, and those communities don’t have a lot of capacity for infrastructure,” EPA regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld told The Associated Press. “In some cases, you go to the tribes and the only paid people are the environmental folks.”
The funding announcement accompanied the start of a three-day tribal EPA conference in Sacramento. Native American communities must abide by certain federal environmental regulations, but local leaders say they often lack money and technical expertise to meet their obligations.
The problems have been aggravated by a three-year drought in California, where 44 tribes are in danger of running out of water in the next six months, Blumenfeld said.
He said California Native American communities have been scrambling to adapt to dry conditions compared with tribes in other Western states. The $18.8 million in California grants announced Wednesday includes several million dollars for help with water supplies.
The Yurok Tribe, located on a far Northern California reservation along the Klamath River, and the Coyote Valley Rancheria in Mendocino County will receive $175,000 for drought contingency plans and to review whether utility rates should be increased to dissuade excess water use.
Other projects touch on the consequences of the drought, such as the restoration of wetlands that are drying up without runoff and monitoring water for pollutants that can build up as flows reduce.
Arizona is the biggest recipient of the grant money, at $19.5 million. Most of that is dedicated to water-related projects such as restoring watersheds, improving water and energy efficiency, and training plant operators.
Nevada tribes will receive $4.8 million, split between water quality projects and broader environmental programs. For example, the Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley, with an estimated 2,300 members near the Idaho border, plans to install troughs to keep their livestock away from tribal water sources.