Hoopa Valley Tribal Council
At Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland’s August 10 tribal leaders roundtable in Eureka, California, Hoopa Chairman Joe Davis thanked Haaland for her commitment to uphold the government’s trust responsibility for federally recognized tribes but asked that she commit to addressing Trump Administration policies still held over in the Bureau of Reclamation.
“Hoopa’s ability to harvest salmon, feed our families, and continue our traditions is paramount to who we are as Hupa People”, said Vice Chairman Everett Colegrove, Jr. But the 1950s construction of the Central Valley Project’s Trinity River Division has nearly destroyed Hoopa’s fishery by damming and diverting Trinity River water to California’s Central Valley 400 miles from the Hoopa Valley Reservation where Hoopa has resided since time immemorial.
“In 60 short years the Bureau of Reclamation destroyed what we lived to preserve for more than 10,000 years”, said Hoopa Fisheries Director Michael Orcutt.
Secretary Haaland’s predecessor, former Westlands Water District lobbyist David Bernhardt, used Bureau of Reclamation employees to erase over $ 400 M in debt owed by CVP contractors including Westlands Water District, effectively reducing fishery and river restoration funding available through the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, (CVPIA).
“On top of that,” said Davis, “the day before President Biden’s inauguration, Secretary Bernhardt wrote a baseless decision that restoration activities were completed, even as our fishery has continued to die.”
Hoopa has worked to persuade the Biden Administration to withdraw Bernhardt’s decision. Hoopa’s basic point is this: Bernhardt is biased towards his former and now current employer Westland Water District and does not tell the truth.
Mr. Bernhardt doesn’t deny Hoopa’s evidence that environmental restoration is incomplete. Instead he deflects, saying that Hoopa’s stand for its property rights, its culture, and its economy “reeks of politics,” as E&E News reported recently.
“His assertion is very insulting to Hoopa”, said Davis, “especially for a former cabinet official whose duty was to be our trustee.”
“After millennia of abundance and prosperity, Hoopa’s Trinity River fishery has been decimated by decades of Westlands’ taking Trinity water”, said Orcutt, “Today, the Trinity River fishery produces less than a single fish per year for each tribal member and Trinity River coho salmon are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). ”
“As Secretary Haaland comes to grips with the extent of the corruption that we seen during Mr. Bernhardt’s tenure, we are confident that she will intervene and take every action needed to fully restore the CVPIA’s environmental restoration program, especially for Hoopa’s fishery and water rights, end the financial corruption, and hold Reclamation and its CVP contractors accountable,” said Davis.