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Yurok Tribe Hosts First-Ever Tribal Offshore Wind Summit

Two-day Summit Unites Trib al Nations from West and East Coasts

 

The Yurok Tribe is hosting the first-ever Tribal Offshore Wind Summit on Tuesday, January 30 and Wednesday, January 31 from 9am to 6pm at the Sequoia Conference Center in Eureka, CA.


At the tribe centered summit tribal leaders from the West and East Coasts will critically examine current and future floating offshore wind projects. Representatives from the offshore wind industry federal agencies and the Humboldt Bay Harbor District will provide updates on two Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management approved projects off the Yurok coast in Humboldt County. Last December, BOEM auctioned development rights to 130,000 acres of ocean for two floating offshore wind farms. The summit will also serve as a platform for community members to voice their hopes and concerns about these projects.


“We are putting on the summit to empower tribes to play a great er role in determining if, when and where offshore wind projects are established. We don’t want to see another extractive industry take advantage of our natural resources and contribute little or nothing to the local community,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe.


During the two-day summit, participants will learn about all of the different facets of offshore wind projects. The first day of the Tribal Offshore Wind Summit will include presentations and panel discussions involving tribal leaders, research engineers and experts in tribal law. In the morning on both days, there will be time for community members to make comments and ask questions to the panelists.


The presentation and panel topics on day one include:

  • “The Development Playbook”- Colonization and Dispossession in Tribal Territories

  • Offshore Planning and Science To-Date

  • The Regulatory Situation in California: AB 525 and Expedited Permitting

  • Federal Plans for Offshore on the West Coast

  • Port of Humboldt Development Plans

  • Development Plans for Leased California Wind Areas


“This conference is an important milestone in our journey to a future that is powered 100% by clean energy, where we restore balance with the natural world, and uplift tribal energy sovereignty and advance economic opportunity,” said David Hochschild, the California Energy Commission Chair.


On the second day, West and East Coast tribal leaders and tribal attorneys will discuss the political, cultural and environmental issues associated with offshore wind projects on unceded tribal waters. Anticipated social issues and mitigation measures will be evaluated too.


The Yurok Tribe and Offshore Wind


While the Yurok Tribe is a strong supporter of renewable energy, the Yurok Tribal Council has not yet taken a formal position on the proposed floating offshore wind projects in Northern California. However, the Tribe has engaged in every stage of the development process to proactively prevent the exploitation of cultural resources and community.


In Yurok ancestral territory, past extractive industries devastated the natural landscape and were involved in efforts to remove tribal people from their homelands. From the mid 1800s to the early 1900s, gold miners destroyed much of the Klamath River and its tributaries as droves of “settlers” encroached on tribal lands. During the same time period, more than 90 percent of the Yurok population was either killed or succumbed to new communicable diseases. The surviving Yurok people were displaced from more than 90 percent of the Tribe’s homeland.


Shortly thereafter, fish killing dams were installed on the Klamath and Trinity Rivers to produce electricity However, much of the Yurok Reservation did not have power until 2016 and even today hundreds of family homes do not have access to the electrical grid.


By the time the last dam was built on the Klamath River, the industrial timber industry was already in full swing. Logging companies clear cut more than 95 percent of the redwood forests in the region. Together, the gold mining operations, dams and unsustainable logging, coupled with the exclusion of tribal people and their holistic land management practices, spurred the collapse of the Klamath River’s once prolific salmon, steelhead and sturgeon runs as well as the decline of numerous culturally important wildlife species, such as deer, elk and waterfowl.


These industries reaped a tremendous amount of wealth from these resources, while the Tribe struggled to survive. Although the Yurok people are still recovering, the Tribe is working to bring the Klamath River back into balance. For example, the Tribe played a major role in the tribally led effort to remove four Berkshire Hathaway owned dams on the Klamath. The dams are currently being dismantled in what is considered the largest salmon restoration effort in world history. The Tribe did not have a say when the dams were built, but the Tribe is stronger now and is more than capable of influencing the trajectory of offshore wind projects.



“Dam removal proves that tribes can make monumental positive change when we work together. We will not let the offshore wind companies follow in the same footprints as their predecessors. These projects need to be done right or not at all,” concluded Yurok Vice Chairman Frankie Myers.


The two-day Tribal Offshore Wind Summit is open to all. There will be closed session for tribes only from 2pm 6pm on both days. All participants must register here.


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