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Safe Drinking water resources are underway for tribes in the Coachella Valley

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia and local tribes celebrate the passage of Safe and affordable drinking water for Native American tribes, also known as AB 2877. "One of the goals is to help prevent future situations like what occurred at oasis mobile home park but ensure tribal lands, specifically underserved tribal areas, can receive and be prioritized to receive state water infrastructure grants," says An official from the office of Assemblymember Garcia's office.

State officials and local tribes pushed to improve infrastructure in the eastern Coachella Valley and address the drinking water crisis many families encounter. "Coachella Valley water district has been working with us to address this and will attend to discuss their work," says Aurora Saldivar.

"The funding priorities," says Thomas Tortez, Jr. Tribal Council Chairman, Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla. "Yeah, we do have a couple of spots on the reservation that are our priority. And those are the sites that have been cited by the Environmental Protection Agency for, you know, high arsenic content in the water. There are a certain number of there's a standard number of particulate matter in the building parts for water, there we go. So those are our funding priorities are those communities that have been decided by the EPA. And as you maybe are not aware that EPA only regulates those houses or those communities that have four more five or more people that they serve. So our advocacy is for all of the community, not just those that EPA regulates, but what about the houses that have won well, and those families that have lived there for generations and the farms that have won well, so we have found that the contamination is, you know, it's widespread outside of the reservation, not just towards Martinez. So we advocate, as with Castillo from CWD for the entire community".

At the press conference, there was a lot of conversation about long-term infrastructure. "Putting pipe in the ground is a is a longer-term, type of effort," says Cástulo Estrada, the Board Vice President of the Coachella Valley Water District. "Those are costly projects. You know, you just heard the avenue 66 projects, this is $30 million. But there's also some efforts to put under the sink filtration systems to remove some of the contaminants. We call those point-of-use filters. Those are things that have been identified as short-term solutions, waiting to sometimes put together the funding to implement the long-term solution, which is really consolidation".

In 2019, Assemblymember Garcia created a California Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. However, since the grant program implementation, they noticed tribes still have many barriers to accessing funding.

This legislation, recently signed by Governor Newsom, will improve accessibility and ensure funds are distributed equitably to tribes. It will open up opportunities to bring more grant funding to eastern Coachella valley tribal lands.

The law will go into effect on January 1st, 2023.

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Miyoshi Price

Miyoshi joined KESQ News Channel 3 in April 2022. Learn more about Miyoshi here.

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