WA tribes get $32M to adapt to climate change. Here’s how they’ll spend it

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Climate Lab is a Seattle Times initiative that explores the effects of climate change in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The project is funded in part by The Bullitt Foundation, Mike and Becky Hughes, University of Washington and Walker Family Foundation, and its fiscal sponsor is the Seattle Foundation.

More than $32 million is coming to tribal nations and organizations for projects intended to combat the disproportionate effects of climate change on Indigenous communities in Washington.

The funding will reach projects across the region, from the outer coast to the Salish Sea and North Cascades. It’s intended to help Indigenous communities mitigate the impacts of climate change on people and critters and inform everyone with research.

The projects range from studying ocean acidification’s effects on fish to moving neighborhoods to higher ground as global sea levels rise. Coastal tribes like the Makah, who have lived on the shores for uncounted generations, have begun moving their communities to higher ground. Other inland tribes have seen the rivers and streams of their homelands become increasingly low, warm and hostile for the fish they rely on.

The 28 grants announced in Washington from the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Tribal Climate Resilience Program, which received $220 million in funding in the Inflation Reduction Act and $216 million in funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, total $32,278,851.

Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray helped negotiate and pass both spending bills.

“Washington state’s tribes are on the front lines of the climate crisis, which is why I am committed to fighting to strengthen federal investments in climate resiliency for tribal communities,” Sen. Murray said.

The grants will help tribes like the Samish, Swinomish and Lower Elwha Klallam build on existing climate adaptation plans. The money will allow the Lummi, Tulalip, Stillaguamish and others to lead habitat restoration projects and research on how climate change is affecting finfish, shellfish and other wildlife.

Also on the coast, roughly $8 million will help the Hoh and Shoalwater Bay tribes move residents and tribal facilities to higher ground and allow the Makah Tribe to construct new wastewater infrastructure intended to withstand climate-induced effects, like extreme weather, flooding, sea level rise and storm surges.

“Located in a 100-year flood plain and tsunami zone along the Pacific Ocean and the mighty Hoh River, the Hoh Indian Tribe has been working for decades to relocate our community to higher elevation given the lower village on the Hoh Indian Reservation faces extreme threat of harm from natural disaster due to climate change, geographical isolation, and limited infrastructure,” Hoh Indian Tribe Chair Darlene Hollum said in a statement. “The Tribe deeply appreciates the hard work and commitment of the Washington congressional delegation.”

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe will also receive roughly $4 million to relocate its fishery lab on Sequim Bay to higher ground. Another nearly $4 million will help the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe secure a more stable drinking water source with the construction of a roughly 7,000-foot water line with Skagit PUD #1, the local water utility.

“The water line will provide a reliable source of water to supplement our uncertain groundwater source and inadequate fire flows, for protection of our community homes and government offices,” Upper Skagit Indian Tribe Chair Marilyn Scott said in a statement.

Millions more dollars are dedicated to helping fish and other wildlife affected by climate change.

Nearly $10 million will help the Lummi Nation return about 3.2 miles of stream habitat for salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act along the South Fork Nooksack River and Skookum Creek and enhance an existing hatchery.

The Tulalip and Stillaguamish tribes will together receive nearly $1 million for a series of studies on the effects of changing conditions in the Salish Sea and North Cascades on fish, mountain goats and other wildlife.

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