Native American Tribe Wants Diablo Canyon Homeland Back

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A Native American tribe asks California Governor Gavin Newsom for help in his attempt to reclaim their homeland at and around the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

Mona Tucker, the tribal chairperson of the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini tribe of the Northern Chumash Indigenous Tribe, sent a letter to the governor on July 27 asking for his support in his negotiations with PG&E, which currently owns or leases the 12,000 acres. of buffer land surrounding the nuclear power plant.

The yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash Tribe (commonly referred to as the “ytt tribe”) is a small, federally unrecognized tribe in San Luis Obispo County.

“Our members are the documented descendants of pre-contact villages that existed on lands commonly known as Diablo Lands, located north of Avila Beach,” the letter reads. “This unceded land was taken from our tribe without consent, accord or compensation, and should rightfully be returned to us.”

“Now that the future of the DCPP (Diablo Canyon Power Plant) and its surrounding lands is up for debate, the state has a unique opportunity to right a historic wrong that still affects our people today,” the letter continues. “Whether the DCPP continues to operate or is decommissioned, our position regarding the future of the lands will not change.”

The future of the power station has been at the center of recent controversy after the 2018 decision to shut it down in 2024 and 2025 was thrown into the air due to the state’s energy needs. The 37-year-old nuclear power plant produces about 15% of California’s carbon-free electricity production and 8% of its total electricity production.

PG&E, the utility company that owns and operates the plant, has signaled that it will likely apply for federal funds that could help extend the life of the facility.

The California Energy Commission will host a workshop with Governor Newsom and the California Independent System Operator to discuss the “role the Diablo Canyon Power Plant could have in supporting medium-term electric reliability and California’s clean energy transition.” “.

The workshop, which is expected to be an important public debate on the power station in light of the recent debate over its future, is scheduled for Friday from 4-7 p.m.

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Steam is released from Reactor No. 1 at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Generating Station in Avila Beach in a May 2000 file image. Steve Osman Los Angeles Times/TNS

While the future of the power station has captivated many, the land around it is also steeped in uncertainty that many members of the local community have worked for decades to settle.

On August 1, five days after the ytt tribe sent their letter to Governor Newsom, he received another letter regarding the lands of Diablo Canyon. This one came from the Friends of the Diablo Canyon Lands, a group formed to basically figure out how to maintain the natural beauty and scenic access to the 12,000 acres in and around the factory.

The ytt tribe was previously a member of the Friends of the Diablo Canyon Lands and worked with the group to craft a collective vision for the future of the lands. However, the tribe did not sign the final framework when it was not decided that they would own the entire 12,000 acres.

Today, more than 30 attendees and 11 observers are on Friends of Diablo Canyon Land’s final list “Diablo Canyon Lands Conservation Framework,” which lays out the group’s vision for the land. Participants include community and local chapter members from the Sierra Club, San Luis Obispo County Land Conservancy, California State Parks, Port San Luis Harbor District, Center for Biological Diversity, Morro Coast Audubon Society and REACH.

Listed observers include local politicians such as Senator John Laird, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg, and members of the California State Coastal Conservancy, Nature Conservancy, Cal Poly, and county offices.

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PG&E weatherman John Lindsey snapped this photo of green grass on Diablo Canyon lands near the Point San Luis Lighthouse in Avila Beach. john lindsey

The group’s conservation framework does not specifically list a single owner for the land – instead, it recommends that the land be transferred “to an entity or entities (possibly including a federal, state, tribal, local or nonprofit) in a manner consistent with the DREAM Initiative, the strategic vision of the Diablo Canyon Land Decommissioning Engagement Group, and the Tribal Land Transfer Policy (California Public Utilities Commission).

The framework also calls for the land to be donated to an entity that can successfully raise sufficient funds to initially purchase the land interests, manage the land, create conservation easements, and manage public use of the land.

The Diablo Resources Advisory Measure (DREAM) initiative was passed by nearly 75% of county voters in 2000. It was an advisory vote measure that called on county leaders and PG&E to ensure land was reserved for habitat preservation, agriculture and public use.

Similar to the Friends of Diablo Canyon Lands framework, the Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Engagement Panel — formed by PG&E to help guide the future of the plant before, during, and after its closure — issued recommendations calling for the 12,000 acres to be conserved. .

The lands of Diablo Canyon are divided into three main sections: North ranch, north of the power plant; south ranch, directly south of the powerhouse; and the 2,400-acre Wild Cherry Canyon property to the southeast, just north of Avila Beach.

The land is owned by PG&E or its subsidiary, Eureka Energy Co. The Wild Cherry Canyon land is subleased by HomeFed Corp., though the validity of that lease is being argued in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

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Cal Poly Pier and the Pacific Ocean can be seen from Wild Cherry Canyon, part of 12,000 acres of undeveloped land surrounding the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant near Avila Beach. Joe Johnson [email protected]

Most of the terrain is relatively untouched except for access roads, a few hiking trails, and the power plant footprint. Cattle graze on a large part of the territory, consisting of meadows and oak forests.

The eventual transfer of the land will be a decision in the hands of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

The Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Engagement Panel and Friends of Diablo Canyon Lands have acknowledged that the land was occupied by the ytt tribe before it was taken.

But the entities want to retain some power over the future of the land and ensure that it is conserved and that no housing developments or shopping centers are erected on the 12,000 acres.

“The demand for land ownership by the local Native American community must be recognized and viewed as a valid claim for historical reasons, while bearing in mind the overwhelming public testimony that the lands of Diablo Canyon should be preserved and made available. publicly available for managed use,” the commitment committee wrote in its vision statements for the land.

The Commitment Committee recommends “that the CPUC ensure that any transfers of land to Native Americans be subject to a conservation easement that would permit limited development consistent with local zoning and the preservation of ecological, environmental, and cultural resources.”

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Poppies are seen along the Point Buchon Trail in the Diablo Canyon Lands near Montaña de Oro State Park. John Lindsey

The ytt tribe, on the other hand, passed a resolution by its tribal council on July 14 which decided that it “will do everything in its power to obtain the political and monetary support necessary to carry out our responsibilities. in land stewardship and returning to our native lands and…that this legacy is our inherent responsibility for the future of our families and for the betterment and health of all Californians.

“The right thing to do is to return our homeland to ytt, but we recognize that there may be a cost,” Mona Tucker, the tribe’s president, told The Tribune.

The tribe’s July 27 letter to Governor Newsom notes that it believes the settlement agreement between PG&E, labor organizations and environmental groups that would allow PG&E to decommission the plant is invalid because it did not include the ytt tribe as a party to the agreement.

“Whether the DCPP is decommissioned or continues to operate, we intend to be a party to any new agreement or settlement with the aim of ensuring that it includes the return of our ancestral lands,” the letter states. “We stand ready to work with the landowner, state, federal and other partners to accomplish the return of Diablo lands to yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash Tribe of San Luis Obispo County and area. .”

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Sea lions bark while basking on Lion Rock at Diablo Cove, off the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, February 25, 2022. David Middlecamp [email protected]

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Mackenzie Shuman writes primarily about Cal Poly, SLO County education, and the environment for The Tribune. She is from Monument, Colorado and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in May 2020. When not writing, Mackenzie spends time outdoors doing hiking, running and climbing.

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