Tribe seeks approval for waste treatment plant
By Rick Elkins | Porterville Recorder
Thursday, June 20, 2013 – 11 am

Tribe seeks approval for waste treatment plant

OK from county has been long coming

June 20, 2013 8:46 AM

RICK ELKINS

THE RECORDER

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in February of 2011 on the Tule River Reservation’s wastewater treatment plant that would finally allow residents in the foothills above Porterville to abandon their old septic systems.

More than two years later, and way past the completion of the pipeline that would take sewage to the plant just west of the reservation boundary, no work has begun because the tribe has not gotten approval from the county of Tulare.

That approval may be coming next week.

A conditional use permit to allow the tribe to begin construction on the $4.3 million plant is on the June 25 agenda for the Tulare County Board of Supervisors.

“I think we’re going to let them go ahead on it,” said Fifth District Supervisor Mike Ennis of Porterville. “We had some concerns. We’ll make note of those issues and then go forward.”

As a backup plan, the tribe has initiated proceedings to bring 876 acres, which includes the land for the treatment plant, into the tribal trust. That action, if approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, would allow the tribe sovereignty over the land and to also begin work on the plant without the need for county approval.

“I think we’re at the point now — go ahead and let them put this in trust,” said Ennis.

Tribal administrator Victor Silvas said the tribe would move ahead with putting the land in trust even if the county does approve the project. According to legal documents filed by the tribe, the land would be for the construction of the plant and the future construction of 21 homes.

The land in question is known as the Lowe Ranch and as the McDarment Parcel. The property is contiguous to the Reservation.

Tribal Council member Duane Garfield said the tribe’s first preference is to work out the issues with the county and get its OK to begin work that he said should have already been completed by now. Also, getting approval to move the land into trust could take up to a year.

Garfield said many of the septic systems on the reservation are failing and those closest to the river are a threat to the water quality found in the river.

Ennis agreed. “They’ve got a real problem. I think 70 percent of their septic systems are failing.”

However, said Ennis, the plant is not the same as found in cities such as Porterville. He called it “one gigantic leach line” and something that if it fails, could contaminate ground water and even the river. He said an irrigation district first raised concerns.

“Those leach lines will be running all over the hill,” said Ennis.

Silvas said the tribe is ready to go to work on the plan. “We’re hopeful,” he said of the upcoming hearing. He added getting the necessary permits has been a struggle.

A 2007 Tule River wastewater feasibility study by the Indian Health Service concluded that 30 percent of all septic tank/drainfield systems failed and an additional 30 percent are expected to fail. The failure rate exceeds EPA’s reported national average of 10-20 percent.

Officials have said there are 285 homes on the reservation on individual septic systems. The plant will hook up 268 of those homes.

According to Margot Perez-Sullivan, an Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson, the local project will provide service to more than 850 residents. She said in 2011 the plant would be constructed to allow for expansion. The plant will only service domestic users, not the casino which has its own plant, she said.

Included in the project is 6.9 miles of pipeline and 371 connections. The plant will be able to handle 0.1 million gallons of flow and will be constructed on more than 7 acres.

Total cost of the project, including the pipeline, is more than $11 million. The EPA is using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project funds to cover most of the cost. The California Indian Health Service kicked in an additional $1.8 million.

The Tule River reservation was established in 1873 and currently owns over 55,400 acres.


Tule River Tribe awarded $450,000 grant

By Denise Madrid |
Thursday, January 10, 2013 – 11 am

Tule River Tribe awarded $450,000 grant

January 10, 2013 9:27 AM

By DENISE MADRID

dmadrid@portervillerecorder.com

The Tule River Indian Tribe has been awarded a $450,000 transportation grant to enhance public transit service on the reservation.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration on Tuesday announced the selection of 72 applicants that have been awarded funding for tribal transit programs. Among the 72 applicants in 17 states, the Tule River tribe will be receiving the largest share of the money.

The funding is awarded as part of the FTA’s Tribal Transit Program, which provides grants directly to Native American tribes for public transportation services on Indian reservations.

Vernon Vera, the tribe’s grant writer, said Wednesday that as part of the grant funding, the Tule River Tribe will make several infrastructure improvements.

The tribe’s original grant application proposed collaborating with the City of Porterville to provide transit services to the reservation through an additional route. Since the application’s submission, however, the city has agreed to provide free bus and demand-response service to the reservation — a service that began Dec. 1.

Vera said the tribe will be able to adjust the grant proposal and said the tribe proposes to construct more durable, weatherized bus shelters when the replacement of existing shelters, or new shelters in new locations, is needed. The tribe also hopes to use the money to extend one route with the purchase of a 12- to 15-passenger van to provide service to residents to live in outlying areas of the reservation. “We’ll be able to extend the routes within the reservation and go into some of the backroads,” Vera said.

If there are sufficient funds, there are also plans for constructing a small transportation facility on the reservation, Vera said.

The grant proposal states that the improvements will create and sustain mobility of tribal members and will benefit families and students of the tribal community. Additionally, the improvements will help save lives as less cars will be on the road. The grant application states that since the opening of Eagle Mountain Casino, traffic accidents on Reservation Road have increased by 400 percent, including at least seven fatalities.

“Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Tribal Transit Program will be to continue collaborative work with the City of Porterville, while enhancing infrastructure,” Vera said.

Rich Tree, director of Porterville City Transit, said the city is ecstatic about the grant awarded to the tribe.

“We are eager to continue our collaboration with the tribe and will help in any way that we can,” Tree said. “Tribal planners have mentioned that perhaps the grant will be used to enhance the tribe’s transportation infrastructure and this would be a great way to expend the awarded funds.”

Neil Peyron, chairman of the Tule River Tribal Council, said the grant will be a good thing.

“The TTP grant will do much to assist tribal members who lack dependable transportation for needed services off the reservation and will be a good thing for the reservation.”

Contact Denise Madrid at 784-5000, Ext. 1047. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseMadrid_.
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