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The Lytton Tribe Manages Government to Government Wastewater Agreements

The Lytton Tribe Manages Government to Government Wastewater Agreements

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the June 2020 edition of our Tribal Utility Newsletter. You can subscribe to this newsletter or find past editions here.

In 1961 federal recognition of the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians was unlawfully terminated. While this recognition was restored in 1991, the Tribe was only granted federal recognition of a reservation in December of last year. During this time the Lytton Tribe built its success by establishing a San Pablo casino. Funds from the casino were used to purchase 500 acres of land near Windsor, California. Since then the Tribe has been working with Sonoma County to develop 147 housing units as well as a resort and winery.

Now that this ongoing development can be performed on land officially held in trust by the U.S. federal government, the Tribe is no longer subject to local land use restrictions. As such, the Lytton Tribe must assess all potential options to best meet future wastewater needs. Collaboration with their Windsor neighbors as well as an environmental assessment identified two primary options:

  • Onsite construction of a private wastewater treatment facility with management overseen by a private firm.
  • Joining the Windsor wastewater treatment plant to meet residential needs with construction of a smaller treatment plant for commercial wastewater.

Construction of a separate wastewater facility drew concerns for the town of Windsor. Effluent discharge would flow into gravel pits near the town's well field and a local watershed. Windsor residents were also concerned about potential treatment odors. If the Tribe connected to the existing treatment plant, they would benefit from the plant's existing efficiencies and reuse opportunities while leaving land available for future Tribal housing.

After accessing the capacity of the Windsor plant, the Tribe and town agreed to connect to the existing facility for a $20 million connection fee. Approximately $3.5 million of this will go toward aeration basin improvements to increase capacity for the Tribe's future development projects. Costs to connect services will be funded by the Tribe. Agreements such of these can often be tedious, however the town and the Lytton Tribe are working well to overcome disagreements, maintain transparency, and find a solution that mutually benefits both parties. The next steps in this project involve drafting a Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement over the wastewater services.

Through this work, the Lytton Tribe demonstrates how to traverse the formation of complex government to government agreements.To assist tribes with future water or wastewater system agreements and partnerships take advantage of the U.S. EPA's Water System Partnerships Handbook, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership's Resiliency Through Water and Wastewater System Partnerships, and the Water Research Foundation's Water Utility Partnerships Resource Guide and Toolbox.