TITLE: Support for the Restoration of a Free-Flowing Eel River – Round Valley Indian Tribes in California
WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and
WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and
WHEREAS, the NCAI supports the protection of the water rights and fishing rights of Indian Nations; and
WHEREAS, a core element of the protection of Indian Nation water rights and fishing rights is the protection of the environmental health of corresponding rivers, tributaries and watersheds; and
WHEREAS, the Eel River and its tributaries in coastal Northern California have sustained Indian people and supported traditional cultural and living practices since time immemorial; and
WHEREAS, the waters of the Eel River are contained and stored behind dams that, among other things, are barriers to fish passage thereby depriving the Eel River fishery of substantial amounts of habitat, adversely affect water quality, contribute to the production of non-native fish species, adversely impact the native fish of the Eel River, and adversely affect the Indian people that have relied upon and been the stewards of the Eel River and its fishery since time immemorial; and
WHEREAS, a significant percentage of Eel River water is presently diverted from the river’s natural course and is conveyed by an inter-basin tunnel through the Potter Valley Hydroelectric Power Project (“Potter Valley Project”) to the Russian River Basin, where it is used for irrigation, municipal and domestic water supplies; and
WHEREAS, the Round Valley Indian Tribes have a right to a healthy Eel River system that supports the Tribes’ water and fishing rights as well as traditional cultural practices and uses within the watershed; and
WHEREAS, consistent with the established rights of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, the federal trust responsibility to the Tribes includes protecting, enhancing and restoring the health of the Eel River and its tributaries (including the flora and fauna) and assuring in perpetuity the ability of the Round Valley Indian Tribes and Tribal members to use water, fish, and engage in cultural practices within the Eel River basin.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NCAI supports the restoration of increased natural flows in the Eel River by decommissioning all dams, and permanently ending all diversions and discharges of Eel River waters into the Russian River basin; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NCAI opposes the continued re-licensing of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Potter Valley Project, which relies on diverted water from the Eel River; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NCAI calls for the decommissioning of Scotts Dam and Cape Horn Dam as well as the closing of the diversion tunnel conveying Eel River water to the Russian River, all in support of enhancing and restoring the Eel River, its tributaries, and the watershed; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NCAI supports the reestablishment of a free-flowing Eel River, and the restoration of sustainable harvestable fishery, in order to promote the exercise of the water and fishing rights of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, traditional cultural practices, and the environmental health of the river and its basin; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.