Tribe seeks expansion

Trinidad.Map
Note: This article was first available to Premium Subscribers on June 21.)

Patrick Evans
Mad River Union

TRINIDAD – Property near the Trinidad Pier could become part of the Trinidad Rancheria. The Cher-Ae Heights Tribal Council is seeking federal trust status for the pier and harbor property, which would transfer governance of the area from the City of Trinidad to the Trinidad Rancheria.

The pier and harbor properties are owned by the rancheria, but under the authority of the City of Trinidad. If the property is given trust status, it will be transferred to federal ownership and the rancheria’s jurisdiction by the United States Secretary of the Interior.

Trinidad Rancheria Chief Executive Officer Jacque Hostler presented the rancheria’s plans at a Trinidad City Council meeting on June 8. Hostler said the tribe is exerting its sovereignty, protecting environmental and cultural resources, and restoring the rancheria’s land base to its original acreage.

“We’re looking to support a more sustainable direction for all of the tribal enterprises, as well as for the entire community and businesses in the City of Trinidad,” Hostler said.

Trust status would give the tribe access to federal funding for the harbor and marine areas, transportation, tourism and environmental protection.

The rancheria will have to obtain a Federal Consistency Determination from the California Coastal Commission, demonstrate compliance with regulations such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Endangered Species Act, and undergo site inspections and environmental compliance reviews before its application for trust status can be submitted.

Hostler said that there was no set date for the completion of the federal land trust application, but the tribe is starting talks with government agencies, including the California Coastal Conservancy and the California Coastal Commission.

Trinidad Rancheria purchased the pier and harbor property in 2000 from Bob Hallmark, son of Earl Hallmark who built the Trinidad pier in the 1940s. In 2004, the Rancheria entered an agreement with the state to start an environmental cleanup of the properties.

The tribe built bathrooms and a wastewater treatment plant, and in 2012 completed a $7.4 million replacement of the old Trinidad pier. The pier was rebuilt to prevent rainwater runoff and creosote in the pier’s wooden pilings from leaching into kelp beds. Wooden pilings were replaced with steel and the wooden deck was replaced with sloped concrete to collect and treat rainwater.

The final projects under the 2004 cleanup agreement will be building a bait shop and interpretive center on the pier, and a stormwater mitigation project for the harbor parking lot.

The interpretive center and bait shop would replace the current shop at the pier, providing space to host exhibits on the local marine protected areas and conservation groups. The rancheria finished designing the shop and completed an environmental assessment but needs to find funding for construction.

The rancheria’s stormwater mitigation project would stop rainwater in the harbor’s main parking lot from flowing into the bay by leaching the water directly into the ground with rain gardens and trenches.

The mitigation project is dependent for funding on Proposition 1, for which a grant proposal which will be submitted in early July.

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