CABY is the Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) planning group that serves communities living in the watersheds of the Cosumnes, American, Bear and Yuba rivers. The Sierra Fund works toward equitable inclusion of Tribes and underestimated communities in the group’s decision-making processes to ensure that the regional plan (CABY Plan) is inclusive of their priorities and to support consultation of these entities as stewards of regional water bodies and recipients of funding for water infrastructure needs.
IRWM planning is a vital process that promotes bringing together and prioritizing water-related efforts in the region in a systematic way to ensure sustainable and equitable water uses, reliable water supplies, better water quality, environmental stewardship, efficient urban development, protection of agriculture, and a strong economy. To leave Tribes and underestimated community members out of this process is to perpetuate structural inequities around access to a fundamental requirement for life – water.
For over a decade the Cosumnes, American, Bear Yuba (CABY) Regional Watershed Management Group (RWMG) and The Sierra Fund (TSF) have engaged with underestimated and underrepresented disadvantaged communities (DACs) and Tribes in the CABY watershed region. This work has raised the visibility of the most pressing water quality and water access needs of these communities and strengthened their capacity to participate in decision-making processes where they can advocate directly for resources.
Working with the CABY RWMG and Stakeholder Group, The Sierra Fund is spearheading one-on-one engagement with underestimated communities to ensure that these groups understand CABY, including what sorts of resources are available through CABY and how they can participate and gain access to funds to address their most pressing water needs. At a broad scale, TSF is raising awareness of the variety of projects that qualify for inclusion in the 2021CABY IRWM Plan Update. Projects listed in the Plan are eligible for specialized funding from the Department of Water Resources. With TSF’s administrative support, tribal-led projects are being developed for inclusion in the Plan. In addition, new tools are under development in partnership with the California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project (CHIRP) that describe how members of CABY can engage effectively with the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe when projects are planned for their ancestral homelands.
Achieving the goal of healthy lands and healthy communities requires that there is a place at the table for underestimated populations including DACs and Tribal groups. The Sierra Fund is committed to meeting these groups where they live and supporting them in getting where they want to be. Implicit in the tenets of TSF’s environmental justice-bound approach is understanding that the goal is to listen, not dictate what priorities are or should be. The impact of this approach is that by taking the time to truly hear, TSF is building relationships of trust and reciprocity that support long-term resilience for the Sierra Nevada region at large and the CABY region specifically.
Key next steps associated with The Sierra Fund’s outreach and engagement of underestimated populations in the CABY region are the following activities:
- Create DACs and Tribes project database
- Ensure adequate representation of DACs and Tribes in CABY
- Provide direct assistance to DACs and Tribes
- Support CHIRP’s development of a primer for cultural resource awareness and sensitivity
- Increase the visibility of DACs’ and Tribes’ priorities through CABY website update
CA Department of Water Resources, through a subcontract with the Sierra Institute for Community and the Environment