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ICYMI: Secretary Haaland Highlights Infrastructure Deal's Investments in Tribal Resilience in Seattle Times Op-Ed

November 09, 2021

"President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal … includes $216 million to support community-led transitions for the most vulnerable tribal communities"

Yesterday, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland explained in an op-ed for the Seattle Times how President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will strengthen the resilience of coastal tribal communities that are particularly threated by the effects of climate change. Secretary Haaland noted how the deal will support these communities in relocating and protecting their roads, homes, and resources, which reflects the Administration's commitment to both mitigating climate change as well as advancing environmental justice and equity. The President's Build Back Better Framework also includes historic investments that will advance these goals and strengthen the resilience of communities across the country.

Read the full op-ed below:

Seattle Times Op-Ed: Infrastructure plan makes historic investments in tribal coastal resiliency
[By Secretary Deb Haaland, 11/8/21]

The United States faces a profound climate crisis. From drought and wildfires to winds and flooding, increasingly extreme weather events are transforming where and how we live and present growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.

As the effects of climate change continue to intensify, Indigenous coastal communities — including tribal communities here in Washington — are facing unique climate-related challenges associated with living on the water. Flooding, erosion, permafrost subsidence, sea level rise, and storm surges are presenting existential threats to coastal communities' economies, infrastructure, livelihoods and health.

When I toured the Quinault Indian Nation earlier this year, I saw firsthand how climate-related impacts are displacing Indigenous coastal communities from their ancestral homelands. The village of Taholah, for example, is under threat from storm surges, flooding and tsunamis, and is in the process of relocating to higher ground.

Unfortunately, these types of coastal impacts are being felt by tribal communities across the country. Shoreline residences are at risk of collapsing into the ocean. Roads are becoming impassable, cutting off access to essential resources services. Homes are flooding, fuel tanks are being threatened by erosion, and tribal cemeteries are having to be dug by hand and relocated so that they are not washed away.

As a result, over the past few decades, tribes have begun to mobilize relocation planning on their own. But with the frequency and severity of climate-related threats to tribal infrastructure expected to increase, we can no longer stand by while entire communities get washed away.

The federal government can and must do more to bolster climate resilience while supporting relocation efforts for coastal communities.

President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal passed by Congress — a central pillar of the president's Build Back Better agenda — includes $216 million to support community-led transitions for the most vulnerable tribal communities, including relocation planning, design and implementation.

With this crucial funding, the Interior Department would provide federal leadership to support collaborative and community-led planning, relocation expenses, infrastructure investments and other forms of assistance. The Framework's investments would also advance our equity and environmental justice goals by helping safeguard vulnerable tribal communities and making our economy more fair and equitable.

As part of this broader commitment, the Department of the Interior also recently awarded nearly $14 million to dozens of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal nations and organizations to support their climate adaptation planning, ocean and coastal management planning, capacity building and relocation, managed retreat, and protect-in-place planning for climate risks.

This all-of-government approach is essential to supporting and empowering tribal communities as they simultaneously face environmental impacts to physical, cultural, and subsistence-based infrastructure and relocate to higher ground.

Without immediate action, the physical and economic security of tribal coastal communities will continue to face duress as the systems that provide essentials like food, clean water, electricity, health care, education and communication are placed in jeopardy.

Joseph R. Biden, ICYMI: Secretary Haaland Highlights Infrastructure Deal's Investments in Tribal Resilience in Seattle Times Op-Ed Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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