Public Hearing on New Plan Scheduled for Sept. 7
"Over $50,000 was spent on purchasing gill nets for tribal fishers. Another $60,000 was spent on an ice machine that provides ice for better storage of fish while it awaits processing. About $5,000 was spent on ice chests for tribal members and the remaining money still sits, waiting to be spent by July of next year."
by Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune September 2011
At an early August Hoopa Tribal Council Meeting the Tribal Fisheries Department was directed to provide a plan to spend $228,000 of salmon disaster relief aid by July of 2012.
The Fisheries Department and Tribal Council had already mulled over ways to spend the money when it was first awarded back in 2007 by an act of Congress, and a spending plan was approved by the Council without going through a public hearing process.
The plan included ways to increase access to the tribal fishery by distributing gill nets and ice chests to tribal members, as well as purchase and operate a massive ice machine. All of the above components were implemented in 2010.
Over $50,000 was spent on purchasing gill nets for tribal fishers. Another $60,000 was spent on an ice machine that provides ice for better storage of fish while it awaits processing. About $5,000 was spent on ice chests for tribal members and the remaining money still sits, waiting to be spent by July of next year.
“The Tribe under-harvested for many years, so the use of money was intended to increase the total harvest and open up more fishing area—specifically in the gorge area,” Fisheries Director, Mike Orcutt said during a May 2011 public hearing on the project.
But, the remaining funds that now total $228,000 and are earmarked to improve access to the gorge fishing area, has not been spent, first because of the permitting process and now because of public opinion.
Originally five roads were proposed, four in the gorge area with access from Dowd Road and Highway 96. The fifth would have provided access to the portion of the Klamath River that flows through the Hoopa Reservation at Saint’s Rest bar just upstream from the Trinity and Klamath confluence. After surveying the area, the Saint’s Rest project was scrapped because of the steep terrain.
Early last spring the Tribe held a public hearing in compliance with their Legislative Procedures Act Process (LPA). But, the documents that were supposed to be available for the public to review were not made available provoking complaints and requests for an additional public hearing. That effort was spearheaded by former council woman Marcellene Norton.
After hearing dozens of complaints from tribal members the council has called for a public hearing next Wednesday, Sept. 7 to discuss the alternative spending plan. Copies of the plan are available at the Hoopa Valley Tribal Office from the tribe’s executive secretary.
There are several options to explore in the new alternative spending plan produced by the Fisheries Department using comments from previous public hearings. The following options are excerpts taken directly from the Fisheries Department’s alternative spending plan:
Fish Processing Facility
The tribe should develop a request for proposals to solicit bids for the construction and placement of a fish processing facility that could be used by HVT members to clean, process, can and smoke their catch. The plan would include: the development of an acceptable placement site, the cost for construction of a commercial quality kitchen in order to pass federal food processing requirements, and the infrastructure necessary to hold an preserve large volumes of fish (e.g. cold storage or freezers). The facility plan should also include a means of disposing waste products in an environmentally compliant manner.
Valley Roads Betterment
Numerous approaches to traditional access points to the Trinity River within the valley reach of the Hoopa Reservation are in poor to impassable condition. This alternative would seek to grade and rock existing roads such as approaches to Red Rock, Campbell Creek, and Cal Pac areas to promote safer river access in the valley reach.
Ice Machine Operation and Maintenance
Under the original grant, an ice machine was installed at the Hoopa Tribal Food Distribution Building. However, costs for maintenance and future operations are not presently envisioned under the balance of grant dollars. This alternative would commit a portion of the remaining funds to provide for continued operation and maintenance and possible relocation of this facility (e.g. in the event that a processing facility is constructed, moving the ice manufacturing plant to that site would be advantageous.)
This alternative would support the construction of a fish dam for the purpose of harvesting fall run Chinook for distribution to the community. The cost of a modern fish weir is approximately $134,600 plus expenses for operation and staffing.
The Hoopa Tribal Council would contract with un-employed/under-employed tribal members to catch fish for distribution to the membership.
Individual cash Payment to Membership
Comments have been received that remaining disaster relief funds would be better spent by making payments directly to tribal members.