- By Brian Edwards
- Energy | Environment
The U.S. Department of Commerce said it would provide $390 million to tribes as part of a multi-billion dollar funding framework to fight climate change.
The funding is part of a $2.6 billion plan by the agency’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to invest in coastal climate resilience through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The massive federal investment will provide funding and technical assistance for capacity building, climate services, the creation of climate-related jobs and transformation projects that protect communities from storms and flooding.
The newly announced round of IRA funding complements other climate investments outlined in the nearly $3 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure law, including some $562 million in Climate-Ready Coast awards that were announced in April.
Calling the $2.6 billion plan “the most significant direct investment in climate resilience in the nation’s history,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo highlighted the tribal allocation, saying it would help fund projects and capacity building for habitat restoration and bolstering fish populations, including:
- $240 million for fish hatcheries that produce Pacific Salmon and Steelhead to be administered through the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
- $60 million for Mitchell Act Hatcheries in support of facilities to mitigate Columbia River dams, water diversions, and other habitat impacts;
- $70 million in additional funding for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) Restoring Tribal Priority Fish Passage through Barrier Removal;
- $20 million for capacity building, science, and related needs through updated BIL Coastal Habitat Restoration and Resilience Grants for Tribes and Underserved Communities Notice.
The NOAA said the funding incorporates input gathered during two tribal consultation sessions in March 2023 and a 30-day comment period. Representatives from 43 tribes and their affiliates attended the consultations, and NOAA received 24 written submissions, including four from non-federally recognized tribes.
During the consultation process, most tribes requested non-competitive set-asides and flexible funding. As well, nearly all tribes indicated a preference that NOAA transfer funds to the BIA for distribution to tribes.
Tribal representatives explained that the funding mechanisms and systems used by BIA are more familiar to them and easier to access than NOAA’s systems. In order to reduce the administrative burdens on tribes, they requested that NOAA transfer funds to BIA for distribution through Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance (ISDEA) Act Section 638 contracts, according to the consultation recap report.
In response to the comments requesting that funding be provided through BIA where possible, NOAA initiated a process with the BIA to facilitate a transfer of $240 million so that it can be distributed through 638 contracts for specific priorities discussed further below. NOAA and BIA will begin a targeted tribal consultation process on that part of the funding in early summer.
"This massive investment will go a long way in helping NOAA prepare communities for natural disasters and more effectively address the environmental and economic impacts to help millions recover from these events,” Don Graves, deputy secretary of Commerce, said in a statement.