AUBURN, WA – Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Bryan Newland completed a three day tour of listening sessions with tribal leaders across Washington State. During his visit, he saw and heard about the immediate challenges coastal tribes are facing related to climate change, as well as ecosystem and infrastructure degradation.
Assistant Secretary Newland met with leaders of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Suquamish Indian Tribe, Puyallup Tribe and Muckleshoot Indian Tribe during his tour.
“As Indigenous coastal communities face the increasing threat of rising seas, coastal erosion and storm surges, our focus must be on bolstering climate resilience,” said Assistant Secretary Newland. “The funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is central to the Biden-Harris Administration’s all-of-government approach to building more resilient tribal communities and protecting the natural environment.”
During his meetings, Assistant Secretary Newland discussed how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the largest investment in physical and natural systems in the nation’s history, includes $466 million for tribal climate resilience and infrastructure. As the effects of climate change continue to intensify, Indigenous communities are facing unique climate-related challenges. Flooding, erosion, permafrost subsidence, sea level rise and storm surges are presenting existential threats to communities’ economies, infrastructure, livelihoods and health.
The law’s investments will support community-led transitions for the most vulnerable tribal communities, including climate adaptation planning, ocean and coastal management planning, capacity building, and relocation, managed retreat and protect-in-place planning for climate risks. It will also help fund construction, repair, improvement and maintenance of irrigation and power systems, safety of dams, water sanitation and other facilities in tribal communities.
The infrastructure law also includes $2.5 billion to help the Department fulfill settlements of Indian water rights claims. During the trip, Assistant Secretary Newland underscored the Department’s commitment to upholding the federal government’s trust responsibilities and delivering long-promised water resources to tribes, certainty to all their non-Indian neighbors and a solid foundation for future economic development for entire communities dependent on common water resources.