Trinidad Rancheria & council in water fight

The planned Hyatt Hotel on Trinidad Bay.

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

TRINIDAD – The Trinidad Rancheria is alleging that the City of Trinidad has failed to work with the tribe to provide water for its proposed hotel. Because of this the rancheria has informed the city that a much-anticipated stormwater project will be put on hold until the dispute is resolved.

The matter will be discussed during a special Trinidad City Council meeting on Thursday, May 21 at 6 p.m. The  meeting will be held remotely at

In August, the California Coastal Commission granted the tribe approval to build a 100-room, five-story hotel near its casino on Scenic Drive overlooking Trinidad Bay. But there was a catch – the rancheria needed to secure a water supply. The rancheria gets its water from the City of Trinidad and asked for additional water for the hotel.

The request has yet to be approved, with some Trinidad residents expressing concern about whether the city has enough water to meet demands, particularly in drought years.

Last week, Tribal Chair Garth Sundberg sent a letter (see below) to Trinidad Mayor Steve Ladwig accusing the city of being uncooperative and failing to work with the rancheria in good faith.

“[T]he City has not demonstrated good faith in dealing with the Trinidad Rancheria, and the city’s conduct over the past year has contradicted the spirit of government-to-government partnership upon which the Tribe’s support for the Stormwater Project and Provisional Agreement was predicated,” Sundberg wrote.

In the letter, Sundberg states that the rancheria informed the city in early 2018 that it intended to build a hotel and it intended to use water through its existing connection to the city’s water system. Sundberg said that the city’s own numbers show that there is more than enough water supply capacity to serve the proposed hotel.

Sundberg also noted that the city appears to be willing to work with a proposed hotel project outside tribal lands.

“Further contradicting the City’s purported concerns about water system capacity, the Trinidad Rancheria has recently learned that the City Manager is working with other parties to develop a hotel and shopping center project on the last remaining vacant land within the city limits,” Sunderg wrote.

The goal of the Stormwater Project is to prevent stormwater discharge into Trinidad Bay. As part of the project, the city wants to remove the stormwater outfall at Launcher Beach. In order to do so, the city will need to use harbor property owned by the rancheria.

The project was set to go out to bid this month, but is delayed due to permitting issues.

At Thursday’s special meeting, the Trinidad City Council will consider approving an eight-point memorandum of understanding between the city and the rancheria. The agreement states:

1. The City of Trinidad agrees to engage in a conversation with the Trinidad Rancheria regarding their request to provide City water for their proposed hotel project.

2. The City will use data from the series of water studies completed in 2019 by the city’s engineering firm, GHD.

3. The Rancheria will use data gathered from a number of sources and studies relating to demand for the project and supply from their wells, etc.

4. The Rancheria will address the use of grant funds from Indian Health Services among others, to assist with improvements to the City’s water system and infrastructure.

5. The City will determine conditions necessary to provide water, and address conditions when water is unable to be provided due to drought and other unforeseen changes to water supply.

6. The end result is to arrive at a range of proposals and scenarios relative to the potential feasibility of providing water to the Rancheria’s hotel project.

7. No decision will be made regarding providing water, but rather the scope of the request, limitations, conditions, etc. will be addressed in order to provide a complete perspective for future City Council and Tribal Council actions.

8. Only the entire Trinidad City Council can agree to a binding contract on behalf of the City.

UnHARPiness results
Monday, the Humboldt Alliance for Responsible Planning (HARP) condemned what to called "end-run around public participation." HARP's statement:
HARP — Humboldt Alliance for Responsible Planning — is protesting the Trinidad City Council’s plan for closed-door meetings with developers of a controversial proposed Hyatt Place hotel on Trinidad Bay.
The proposed meetings come in response to a letter from Garth Sundberg, chairman of the Trinidad Rancheria, threatening to halt cooperation with the city over an ongoing stormwater mitigation project unless the city agrees to supply the proposed 5.5-story Hyatt hotel with water. The city is in the midst of drafting comprehensive water policies.
The Council will consider a formal Memorandum of Understanding at a hastily called special Thurday meeting that will permit meetings between Council members and hotel developers to come to an agreement on water for the Hyatt hotel.
HARP objects to this end-run around public participation and input on water for the embattled hotel proposal, especially during this drought year.



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