C & E Programs
The Yurok Tribe Environmental Department Wetlands Program is dedicated to the inventory, monitoring, assessment and protection of wetlands within the Yurok Reservation. The Environmental Wetland Program also works in coordination with and support of the Yurok Tribe’s efforts in wetland restoration as implemented by the Yurok Tribe Fisheries Program (YTFP) and the Yurok Tribe Watershed Restoration Department (YTWRD), in addition to riparian wildlife monitoring by the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Program (YTWP). The Tribe’s wetland restoration efforts are driven by the desire to protect salmonids and other native fish and wildlife that rely on Klamath River wetlands for critical habitat.
The Yurok Reservation, specifically areas adjacent to the Klamath River Estuary (KRE), contain several wetland complexes in various ecological conditions that serve as critical habitat for anadromous salmonids, especially for ESA listed Coho salmon. Understanding and improving the functional role of KRE wetlands is a unifying goal for all tribal programs that work with wetlands resources. The Environmental Department is continuing the development of its Wetlands Program by encompassing high elevation freshwater wetlands crucial for fish and wildlife habitat, protection of quality of Lower Klamath River watersheds and source headwaters, as they supply drinking water to the upriver Tribal community. The Environmental Department Wetlands Program intends to support tribal wetlands protection and restoration efforts by collecting a range of baseline environmental data on wetland complexes within the Yurok Reservation and developing a tribal regulatory framework for wetlands protection. The Environmental Department plans to continue seeking funding and support from USEPA and other agencies to refine its Wetlands Program through continued data gathering and analysis, and promulgation of tribal codes and ordinances in support of the larger goal of wetlands protection.
Yurok Wetlands Protection Ordinance
The Environmental Department Wetlands Program is developing a functional Wetlands Protection Ordinance, in coordination with other Tribal departments and the Tribal membership. The protection ordinance defines the jurisdiction of the Environmental Department regulatory authority, establish a scope of regulated activities, define criteria for responding to and reviewing project applications, establish criteria for effective mitigation, and develop integration with the existing water quality control program.
KRE South Slough Water Quality
The Environmental Department Wetlands Program is conducting long-term water quality monitoring of the KRE South Slough using a permanent gauging station. This monitoring provides critical baseline data on current water quality conditions. The Environmental Department will continue this monitoring in future years with the purpose of collecting a comprehensive data set on water quality conditions over time to allow for analysis with the intent of informing how these parameters relate to use by native fish and wildlife.
KRE Wetland Sediment Accretion Studies
The Environmental Department is conducting sediment accretion/erosion surveys to monitor rates of sedimentation in the KRE wetlands to understand how this process interacts with projected sea level rise and geologic uplift in current and future climate change impact modeling and planning efforts. The rate of sediment accretion or erosion is a determining factor of tidal wetland sustainability with sea level rise and a primary driver of habitat evolution over time. Accretion rates vary spatially due to many factors including elevation, vegetation type and productivity, distance to channels, wave climate, and salinity dynamics. In the context of climate change, long term adaptability and persistence of tidal marsh depends in part on sediment sources, quantities and distribution patterns.
KRE Mouth Camera
In 2016, the Environmental Department installed a time-lapse camera to document the long-term dynamic forces of the Klamath River’s mouth and estuary. The Environmental Department continues to document the daily changes and hopes to install a real-time camera for the community to view.
Headwater Wetlands and Streams
In 2017, the Environmental Department launched a project in the Klamath River watershed, investigating headwater ecosystem health through water quality/quantity monitoring and performing biological assessments in headwater streams; this included sampling for stream amphibians via environmental DNA (eDNA) and surveying for benthic macroinvertebrates. These headwaters feed into other culturally important plants, fish and wildlife habitat throughout the Klamath River watershed and provide drinking water resources to the Tribal community. Furthermore, focusing on freshwater wetlands and headwater streams is filling existing data gaps and will aid in the completion and protection of water quality/quantity standards for all Lower Klamath wetlands in the future.
Air Quality Program
The Air Quality Section of the Yurok Tribe Environmental Department monitors air quality and meteorological conditions in the Klamath Glen, Weitchpec, and Notchko. Real-time data from air quality monitoring stations are available here.
Additionally, this Section issues burn permits for lands within the Yurok Indian Reservation and administers the Tribal Air Quality Ordinance.
Burn Permits are available for both residential and commercial (field) burn activities. Residential burn permits are available for residents wishing to burn organic material only. Burn permits do not allow the burning of construction debris or household wastes. To apply for a burn permit, please download, complete, and return the Application form linked below to YTEP at 190 Klamath Boulevard, Klamath, CA 95548. Upon evaluation by the Environmental Department staff, you will be returned a burn permit and copy of relevant sections of the Smoke Management Plan as guidance in your activities. Burn permits are valid for one year from date of issuance.
Environmental Site Assessments
128(a) Tribal Response/Brownfields Program
A "Brownfield" can be defined as any currently unused piece of property, where based on its past land use history, the community perceives that it contains some form of contamination rendering it unusable. Common examples of brownfields sites on the Yurok Reservation include former mill sites, abandoned gas stations, illegal dumpsites and abandoned mining sites.
Since 2006, the Environmental Department has worked to inventory all potential Brownfields sites, and prioritize these sites for investigation and assessment within the Yurok Reservation. The Environmental Department has developed in-house capacity to complete Phase I Environmental Site Assessments and has been conducting these Phase I Assessments for selected, prioritized sites since 2010. The Environmental Department has worked closely with a qualified contractor, Freshwater Environmental Services, to conduct Phase II Environmental Site Assessments on selected sites determined to warrant further investigation and testing under the Phase I Assessments completed. Copies of completed Phase I and Phase II ESA reports can be found under the Pollution Prevention Reports and Documents section of the Environmental Department website.
The Environmental Department has utilized the USEPA 128(a) Tribal Response Program grant funding to build our Brownfields Program and also Emergency Response capacity for the Yurok Reservation. 128(a) funding has trained the Environmental Department, Emergency Services and Yurok Public Safety in environmental investigation, enforcement and hazardous materials emergency response. The training and related certifications have helped the Tribe develop the capacity to plan for and respond to hazardous spills and accidental releases within the reservation or the Klamath River to enable prompt response and remediation in the event of an accident or natural disaster.
The Environmental Department is currently working on the development of Tribal Cleanup Standards to guide the remediation and cleanup of any confirmed Brownfields sites. These standards will direct the levels of cleanup to ensure continued and/or restored cultural and beneficial uses by Yurok People.
Future activities will include identifying sites suitable and in need of remediation and cleanup for restored use. Once a suitable site is identified, the Environmental Department will apply for reuse and redevelopment funding from USEPA to restore a confirmed Brownfields site for tribal cultural or economic uses.
The Environmental Department's 128(a) Tribal Response/Brownfields Program is within the Community and Ecosystems Division. Under the supervision of the Environmental Department Director, the Program the tasks are shared between Environmental Health, Suzanne Fluharty, and Pollution Prevention, Ray Martell. Suzanne Fluharty manages the Brownfields Inventory and Database, conducts risk assessment, and will oversee the completion of the Tribal Cleanup Standards and any future reuse and redevelopment projects. Ray Martell conducts Phase I ESAs for selected sites and oversees the HazMat/Emergency Response components of the Program. Environmental Department Director coordinates these tasks and staff with Yurok Public Safety and Emergency Services and oversees the Program implementation.
Brownfields Environmental Site Assessment Reports
Lindgren Mill Phase I ESA, 2020
MJ Property on Sippin Creek Phase II ESA, 2015
MJ Property on Weitchpec/ Muddy Creek Phase II ESA, 2015
MJ Property on Johnsons Creek Phase II ESA, 2015
Upper Mawah Illegal Dump Phase I ESA, 2020