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WASHINGTON — In addition to articles already covered by Native News Online, here is a roundup of other news released from Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country recently.

President Biden Approves Disaster Declaration for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

On Friday, President Biden  declared that a major disaster exists for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and ordered federal aid to supplement the Tribe’s efforts in the areas affected by severe storms from July 17-18, 2022.

The President’s action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

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Federal funding is also available to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms.

Additionally, federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated areas can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.  The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice. 

Secretary of Commerce Declares Several Tribal Fishery Salmon Disasters on the West Coast

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced the allocation of $17.4 million to address fishery disasters that occurred in multiple tribal salmon fisheries on the West Coast from 2014 to 2019.

Raimondo determined that during this time the following fisheries met the requirements for a fishery disaster determination:

  • 2019 Fraser River & Skagit River Salmon Fisheries (the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Tulalip, Upper Skagit Tribes).
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2019 Fraser River and Nooksack River Terminal Area Sockeye, Chinook, Chum, Coho and Pink Salmon Fishery (Lummi Nation).
  • 2019 Puget Sound Fall Chum Salmon Fishery (Squaxin Island Tribe).
  • 2014 and 2019 Fraser River Sockeye and Puget Sound Chum, and Coho Salmon Fishery (Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe).
  • 2019 Klamath River Fall Chinook Salmon Fishery (Yurok Tribe).

These funds will help improve the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of the impacted fisheries. Funds can be used to assist fisheries participants, including commercial fishermen, charter businesses, shore-side infrastructure providers and subsistence users. Activities that can be considered for funding include fishery-related infrastructure projects, habitat restoration, tribal and fishing permit buybacks, job retraining and more. Some fishery-related businesses impacted by this fishery disaster may also be eligible for assistance from the Small Business Administration. 

EDA Awards $38.2 Million to the Indian Nations Council of of Governments from Build Back Better Funds

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced on Friday that Tulsa, Okla. is one of 21 recipients to be awarded a Build Back Better - American Rescue Plan grant in the amount of $38.2 million. The funds will be used by a Tulsa-based coalition of organizations from the government, nonprofit, academia, and private sectors to create the Tulsa Regional Advanced Mobility (TRAM) Corridor. The goal of this corridor is to cultivate a diverse hub for research, development, and production in the advanced mobility (AM) industry, resulting in an anticipated generation of 30-40,000 jobs—the equivalent of $3.5-5 billion in economic activity—over the first 2-3 years.

The Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG) will serve as the lead institution for the coalition’s efforts to build the TRAM Corridor. They will work with multiple partners including Tulsa Innovation Labs (TIL), Tulsa Ports, Oklahoma State University, Osage LLC, City of Tulsa, Partner Tulsa and the Tulsa Regional Chamber

Each of these organizations are committed to building a resilient economy for the future of Tulsa, anchored in innovation, entrepreneurship, and manufacturing. The projects that will be created as part of the TRAM Corridor are intentionally designed to address economic disparities particularly among the tribal, black, and minority populations in and around Tulsa. 

Dept. of the Interior Releases Draft Guidance on New Tribal Orphaned Well Program

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior today released draft guidance to tribes on how to apply for the first $50 million in grant funding available this year under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to clean up orphaned oil and gas well sites on tribal lands. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a total of $4.7 billion to address orphaned wells across the country, including $150 million for Tribal communities. 

The Department will hold nation-to-nation consultations with Tribes later this month to further gather feedback on the draft guidance and the orphaned well program overall.

Several thousand orphaned oil and gas wells remain on Tribal lands, jeopardizing public health and safety by contaminating groundwater, seeping toxic chemicals, emitting harmful pollutants including methane and harming wildlife. Some of these wells are underwater, which creates an especially high risk of adverse impacts.

The draft guidance released Wednesday provides draft instructions to tribes on how to apply for orphaned well grants, as well as guidance on how tribes can ensure activities funded under the program are putting people to work, protecting the environment, and safeguarding taxpayer money in a transparent and responsible manner.

Funding through the program may be utilized to plug, remediate or reclaim orphaned wells on tribal land, restore soil and habitat in the degraded area, decommission or remove associated infrastructure, identify and characterize additional undocumented wells on Tribal land and set up well-plugging capacity where not already established. In lieu of grants and consistent with the Department’s trust responsibilities, Tribes may also choose for the agency to administer and carry out plugging, remediation and reclamation activities on the tribe’s behalf.

Comments on the guidance can be emailed to [email protected] by 11:59 PM ET on October 24, 2022, and will help inform any changes moving forward. Consultation sessions will be held on Tuesday September 27 and Thursday September 29 from 1pm to 3pm ET. 

Registration is available on the Bureau of Indian Affairs website.

U.S. Dept. of Energy Announces Tribal Clean Energy Summit for Oct. 4-5

The U.S. Department of the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) Tribal Clean Energy Summit, in  Washington, DC, October 4-5, 2022, where Secretary Granholm will convene a nation to-nation roundtable discussion of a key question: How can the U.S. Department of  Energy partner with tribes to strengthen tribal energy sovereignty? 

This nation-to-nation roundtable discussion among Tribal and Alaska Native Corporation  leaders, Secretary Granholm, and DOE senior leadership will explore how Tribes can  harness clean energy to enhance energy sovereignty, address climate resilience, and build  stronger economies. 

Participants will also learn more about key DOE programs and funding opportunities, and  engage with senior DOE leaders on: 

  • Federal energy programs and funding opportunities, including those funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act; 
  • Access to energy project finance and capital; 
  • Energy access, security, reliability, and transition issues; 
  • Workforce development and transition; and
  • Consultation and meaningful Tribal leader participation in national energy infrastructure decision-making.

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