Hoopa Valley Tribe Declares Drought Emergency

The Hoopa Valley Tribal Council called an emergency meeting with their environmental and healthcare staff to discuss a plan to prepare for the realities of drought. Later that day, the Council passed a drought declaration./Photo by Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune

By ALLIE HOSTLER, Two Rivers Tribune

The Hoopa Valley Tribal Council declared a drought emergency on Monday evening at their re-scheduled council meeting.

The declaration comes just three days after California Governor, Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on behalf of the state. Several counties have also declared emergencies as low precipitation levels and lack of snowpack, continue to break records.

When it comes to the Trinity River, water levels have never been as low as they are now or at least in the past 50 years that there has been a record.

“We’re setting a new record, and it’s not a good one,” fisheries hydrologist, Robert Franklin said during an emergency meeting with tribal departments on Monday morning. “The flows are the lowest anyone alive has seen (at this time of year).”

Franklin explained the dilemma low water flows can cause for the tribe. He said Trinity Lake is about half full and that if the Bureau of Reclamation acts as if there is a surplus of water in Northern California, sending more to central and southern California, cold water for the river could be compromised during critical salmon migration times this fall.

“Politics and money are on the other side,” Franklin said. “There’s a good chance we’ll squeak through this year, but if we have another dry year, or several, wow, we’ll be in no position to do anything.”

The Tribal Environmental Protection Agency (TEPA) is concerned about water quality and plans to begin testing for bacterial contamination earlier this year.

Ted Oldenburg, from TEPA said, “The major concern with low water levels is increased temperatures creating conditions ideal for the growth of algae and bacteria that could become a health risk, not only for drinking, but for recreational use in the river and creeks.

TEPA is also working to ensure their air quality measuring devices are up and running prior to the fire season, since it’s predicted to also be record-breaking.

Forest manager, Darin Jarnaghan and Fire Management Officer, Kevin Lane are working to develop a plan to reduce fire risk in residential areas. Some attendees talked about implementing a defensible space regulation to protect homes, but nothing was agreed upon during the meeting.

The tribe’s Office of Emergency Services is a little more than a week away from formalizing a draft Drought Mitigation Plan that could include storing water from untapped waterways in the mountains, increased fire prevention measures and repairing backup water systems for domestic purposes.

The plan will also include a strategy for increased public education about water conservation, and safety from polluted water and fire.

Director of the Hoopa Valley Public Utilities District (PUD), Barbara Ferris, said she is working to secure a backup water system and storage for domestic water use should Trinity River water become unusable.

“The scientific community doesn’t know where this is going. No one can really say, because no one has seen anything like this before. The planning needs to be three-to-five years out and it needs to be put in place now,” Ted said.

The team assembled to address the drought emergency will meet again to discuss their progress in two weeks.

Leave a Reply