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Tribal summit next steps include transportation collaboration


August 13, 2014
This year's annual San Diego Regional Tribal Summit was held April 11 on the Barona reservation, and on July 26 the San Diego Association of Governments' Borders Committee unanimously recommended that the "next steps" of the proceedings be considered for incorporation into SANDAG's next regional plan.

The intent of the tribal summit was to bring together representatives of the 18 recognized tribal nations with the county of San Diego and the 18 incorporated cities, which comprise the SANDAG board. The summit allowed the tribal representatives and the SANDAG member agencies to discuss policy issues of mutual interest including transportation and regional planning.

"It was a really successful summit," said SANDAG tribal liaison Jane Clough.

The 2015 update of the Regional Transportation Plan will also incorporate SANDAG's Regional Comprehensive Plan and is expected to be known as San Diego Forward. SANDAG and the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association have been working on implementing the tribal consultation plan which was approved by the SANDAG board of directors during 2013.

"The tribal summit was a key milestone," said Mesa Grande tribal chair Mark Romero, who represents the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association on SANDAG's Borders Committee.

The policy areas include cultural resources, economic development, environmental conservation, and energy as well as transportation.

The areas of action include collaboration on the integration of MAP-21 rulemaking (the Federal transportation bill passed in 2012 was called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), working together on the California Freight Plan, and identifying transportation projects of concern to tribes. The next steps for transportation are to identify critical regional arterials serving tribal nations which merit inclusion in the Regional Transportation Plan, coordinate the incorporation of the existing Tribal Transportation Plan into San Diego Forward, collaborate on comments for the negotiated rulemaking for MAP-21, and create opportunities for pooling or leveraging transportation funding for mutually beneficial projects.

"It's a way to make sure their needs are documented," Clough said. "It's a way for them to show what their high-priority projects are."

The individual tribal transportation plans are included as an appendix to the Regional Transportation Plan. The RTP was last updated in 2011, and six tribes provided plans. "We're working with them to increase that number," Clough said. "Our goal is to get at least three or four more tribes."

Clough noted that some tribes who didn't submit plans for the 2011 RTP intend to submit plans for the next update.

SANDAG also works with tribes on tribal transit grants. "Whatever those services are, those are in the plan," Clough said.

The Reservation Transportation Authority, a consortium of 20 member tribes in San Diego and Riverside Counties, usually takes the lead on tribal transportation grants. Collaboration between the RTA, SANDAG, and the North County Transit District allowed for a 2008 Federal Transit Administration grant to provide loop service for Routes 388 and 389, which had previously run between Escondido and Pala through Valley Center while serving the Indian reservations along that route. The loop routes allowed not only for quicker service between Escondido and Pala but also for a stop at the park-and-ride facility near the interchange of State Route 76 and Interstate 15 once funding was provided for that. In 2012 the RTA received an American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grant for the park-and-ride bus stop facility which includes a covered shelter. Earlier this year the clockwise and counterclockwise loops were replaced by Route 389 running from the Escondido Transit Center to Pala Casino with a stop at the park-and-ride and Route 388 running between Pala and Escondido through Valley Center and the other reservations.

The areas of action also call for collaboration to improve energy diversity in the region, working together to create a process which protects cultural resources without further burdening the tribes, advocating and lobbying together in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., for projects of mutual interest in the region, exploring ways to strength collaboration in emergency management and public safety, having the SCTCA play a role in educating jurisdictions on tribal issues and understanding the application of sovereignty in terms of land use and regional planning, and integrating the information from the tribal summit into key SANDAG and other regional initiatives.

The habitat conservation next steps are to support the protection of habitat from a cultural perspective as well as from an environmental perspective, collaborate to secure funding for tribes to participate in the environmental consultation process, explore opportunities to engage tribal nations in regional habitat conservation efforts, and create a regional forum to bring together tribes, local jurisdictions, resource agencies, and environmental stakeholders for better collaboration and coordination.

The energy next steps are to explore opportunities to collaborate on regional energy planning and to explore opportunities to engage tribal nations in regional energy planning coordination. The cultural resources next steps are to explore potential collaboration to provide information on the location of culturally significant resources and to explore collaboration methods to communicate information regarding the legal requirements of Senate Bill 18, the 2004 legislation which requires local governments to consult with recognized Indian tribes during general plan or specific plan amendments. The next steps also include exploring opportunities to collaborate on legislation and projects of mutual interest.

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