Tribal Beneficial Uses
On May 2, 2017, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted Resolution 2017-0027, which approved "Part 2 of the Water Quality Control Plan for Inland Surface Waters, Enclosed Bays, and Estuaries of California—Tribal and Subsistence Fishing Beneficial Uses and Mercury Provisions" (ISWEBE Plan). Through Resolution 2017-0027, the State Water Board established three new beneficial use definitions for use by the State and Regional Water Boards: Tribal Tradition and Culture (CUL), Tribal Subsistence Fishing (T-SUB), and Subsistence Fishing (SUB) beneficial uses. A California Native American Tribe, which includes federally recognized and non-federally recognized California tribal governments, can submit a request to the Central Valley Water Board to designate a waterbody with Tribal Beneficial Uses. These beneficial uses may be designated by regional water quality control boards through the basin planning process on inland surface waters, enclosed bays, or estuaries in the state. The CUL, T-SUB, and SUB beneficial use definitions below are set forth in full:
Tribal Tradition and Culture (CUL)
Uses of water that support the cultural, spiritual, ceremonial, or traditional rights or lifeways of California Native American Tribes, including, but not limited to: navigation, ceremonies, or fishing, gathering, or consumption of natural aquatic resources, including fish, shellfish, vegetation, and materials.
Tribal Subsistence Fishing (T-SUB)
Uses of water involving the non-commercial catching or gathering of natural aquatic resources, including fish and shellfish, for consumption by individuals, households, or communities of California Native American Tribes to meet needs for sustenance.
Subsistence Fishing (SUB)
Uses of water involving the non-commercial catching or gathering of natural aquatic resources, including fish and shellfish, for consumption by individuals, households, or communities, to meet needs for sustenance. *
*The SUB beneficial use does not mention "California Native American Tribe" in its definition but is grouped with the CUL and T-SUB beneficial uses because it may still be of interest to, and can still be utilized by, California Native American Tribes and tribal members, as well as other interested persons or members of the Public.
The CUL and T-SUB beneficial uses will help to protect activities specific to Native American Culture and Tribes' historic uses of California's waters, including practices not covered by existing beneficial uses. The functions of these beneficial uses are not to protect or enhance fish populations or aquatic habitats. Fish populations and aquatic habitats are protected and enhanced by other beneficial uses, including but not limited to, Fish Spawning, Migration of Aquatic Organisms, Aquaculture, Warm Freshwater Habitat, and Cold Freshwater Habitat.
Confidentiality and Tribal Beneficial Uses
In general, the regional water quality control boards do not designate specific locations but instead designate stretches of rivers or creeks or whole water bodies. There is no need to specify the exact location of the practice or activity. For traditional and cultural uses, information would need to be established about the practice to get an understanding of the risk involved and the nexus to water quality so the appropriate water body or water body segment may be designated. Such information would be public information and not confidential.
The Central Valley Water Board will be conducting formal consultation as part of all TBU designations. Early engagement on the designation of waters will include discussion of a Tribe's interest to maintain the confidentiality of traditional and cultural practices at the outset. Please see the Water Boards' Tribal Consultation Policy Statement for more information.