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Region 1: EPA New England

Penobscot Indian Nation

Location and Land status

The Penobscot Indian Nation is a federally recognized Indian tribe in Maine (population 2,278). Their traditional homeland is the 8,500 square mile Penobscot River basin. Today, the Penobscot Nation's land holdings consist of more than 123,000 acres in numerous parcels throughout the state that include Reservation, Trust, and Fee Lands. Of the acreage, 4,866 acres extend across 146 islands on the Penobscot River. All the land in the Penobscot River Valley once belonged to the Penobscot people, from the Canadian border to the coast, where they would gather en masse in the summer for socializing and sea food. The Penobscot River is of great importance to Penobscot people and has been the center of the tribe's existence for thousands of years. The tribe used and continues to use the lands and waters for hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, transportation (boating), and ceremonial purposes. The majority of the land is covered with timber of high quality. As settlers came into the territory, the tribal holdings were reduced. Later, the lumber industry took hold and tribal lands were further reduced to meet industrial needs. The river and its traditional uses by tribal members became threatened by dams and pollution. The Penobscot people became crafts oriented, making birch bark canoes, fancy baskets, snowshoes, moccasins and the like, while natural resources such as moose, beaver and caribou were dying out, and threatening tribal sustenance lifeways.

Today the tribe continues to carry out many of its traditional cultural practices while trying to restore others in the face of the numerous threats to its land and waters.

Indian Island, near Old Town, ME is the primary residence and seat of tribal government for the Penobscot Indian Nation.

Total enrolled population: 2, 278
On Reservation: 410
As of: January 01, 2007 (PIN Tribal Census)

The Tribal land includes the 4,866 acre reservation, 90,566 acres held in trust and 27,636 acres of fee land.

Tribal Government

The Penobscot Nation has a Council composed of twelve elected members, lead by a chief and vice chief.

Department of Natural Resources
Summary of Environmental Accomplishments in 2006-2007

Water Resources Program

  • Identified as a Tribal Success Story in US EPA and US DOI Offices of Inspector General report “Tribal Successes in Protecting the Environment and Natural Resources” May 2007.


  • Five PIN Water Resources Program (WRP) staff completed the Hazardous Waste Site Personnel Basic Health and Safety Course (either 40 hr. or 8 hr. refresher). These staff have been working towards obtaining EPA Inspector credentials
  • WRP staff discovered, investigated, and reported to Maine DEP, Maine LURC or EPA numerous violations of environmental regulations affecting the Penobscot Reservation. Some noteworthy examples include:
    • Monitoring data collected by PIN WRP investigations in summer 2007 were used by ME DEP to issue a Notice of Violation to Katahdin Paper for discharging excessive phosphorous causing a cyanobacteria/ algal bloom and impairing water quality standards.
    • Staff discovered a broken wastewater line in town of Mattawamkeag's public treatment system.
    • Staff responded and reported to DEP an incident involving improper disposal of septage and a broken wastewater line at a Milford trailer park.

Water Quality Monitoring/Assessment

  • We made significant improvements to our model data management system. With assistance by USGS we were able to refine our data collection and use of our PINE environmental database. Specifically these improvements 1) facilitated and streamlined electronic entry of field and lab data directly into our database, and 2) improved processes and tools to assess in a timely manner whether water quality standards are being met.  In 2007 we were also awarded an EPA Environmental Information Exchange Network Grant to develop a node so that we can share data more easily through WQX.
  • In 2007 we discovered and investigated an extensive cyanobacteria bloom with the Penobscot River. The bloom began on the lower West Branch and extended approximately 50 miles downstream. WRP used aerial surveys and water quality sampling (including nutrients, chlorophyll a, algal taxonomy, and toxicity testing) to document the extent, severity, and duration of the bloom. We issued a health advisory warning tribal members to not ingest water or swim in the river. Data collected are being used to establish phosphorous discharge limits for at least one of the paper mills on the river.
  • In 2007 PIN WRP assisted Maine DEP with a comprehensive waste load allocation study for the Penobscot River. The tribe provided most of the staffing, equipment, and field sampling expertise for the project. Data from these studies will be used to update a water quality model and to establish permit limits for discharges within the watersheds.
  • PIN provided technical and logistical assistance to EPA New England with a sediment oxygen demand (SOD) study of the Penobscot River. Results from this study will be incorporated into the Penobscot River model.
  • We monitored ambient water quality at 114 sites within the Penobscot River watershed on a weekly basis. Parameters monitored included dissolved oxygen, temperature, E. coli bacteria, phosphorous, chlorophyll ā, biochemical oxygen demand, conductivity, suspended solids, turbidity, pH, alkalinity, and secchi transparency. In 2006 -07 we extended sampling efforts downstream to the Milford tailrace – Great Works area to collect pre-dam removal data for the Penobscot River Restoration Project. These data are used to determine attainment of water quality standards and to detect trends. The data are also shared with ME DEP for 305(b) reporting per our cooperative water quality monitoring agreement.
  • PIN monitored 21 sites at 11 lakes and ponds of tribal Trust Lands to characterize water quality conditions and determine trophic trends.
  • Cooperated with University of Maine Water Resources Institute with water quality sampling at East Branch Lake for EPA's Acid Rain Monitoring Program.
  • In 2006-07 we monitored aquatic benthic macroinvertebrates from 5 locations within the Penobscot basin for use in determining attainment of aquatic life criteria and for upcoming wastewater licensing. We also provided assistance to ME DEP with biomonitoring of wetlands and streams within the Penobscot watershed.
  • PIN continued to participate on the Technical Advisory Committee ME Surface Water Ambient Toxics Monitoring and Dioxin Monitoring programs.
  • PIN WRP continued to carry out an aquatic invasive plants program including education, posting signs, and enforcement of Maine's law. Five staff members received Invasive Plant Patroller training from the Maine Center for Invasive Aquatic Plants.

Nonpoint Source Pollution Management

  • Installed ~150 ft. of river bank stabilization controls at two tribal residences on Indian Island.
  • Installed several NPS controls on ATV access trails at Alder Stream Trust land to protect stream. BMPs included installing 4 cross drainage culverts, ditching, shaping, reestablishing water bars, and stabilizing stream crossing areas.
  • Installed 2 vegetated riparian buffer strips for Indian Island School and boat landing areas. These plantings were done by school children as part of Wabanaki Day educational activities.
  • Installed numerous BMPs at Mattamiscontis Trust land including ~11,000 feet of ditching, and 14 culverts for cross drainage or small stream crossings.
  • Carried out numerous NPS education and awareness activities including articles in the PIN DNR newsletter, classroom lessons, Enviroscape watershed model demonstrations, and Wabanaki Day activities (NPS Dunk Tank and NPS Pollution Revolution)

PIN WRP Manager serves as Regional representative on the EPA National Tribal Science Council and the National Tribal Water Council.

IMPROVE (Interagency Monitor for Protected Visual Environment) Air Quality Monitor - Penobscot Nation. Click for a larger image.

IMPROVE (Interagency Monitor for Protected Visual Environment) Air Quality Monitor - Penobscot Nation

Model Tribal Regional Air Program

  • IMPROVE sampling station (PENO1) installed on January 10th, 2006, and run concurrently with (OLTO1), which was decommissioned on May 30th, 2006. This new site is located on the reservation, with a more accurate representation of the air that the tribal members are breathing. The tribe is represented by the Air Program Manager and the Natural Resources Director in the regional haze consortium: Mid Atlantic and New England states Visibility Union (MANE-VU) in the consultations with other RPO's.
  • National Air Deposition Program member, with acid rain deposition collector located in Carrabassett Valley (ME04). Mercury deposition collector to be collocated there in the fall of 2007. Manager performs field chemistry on weekly acid rain samples and submits this data weekly to the state air bureau web site portal.
  • Ozone and meteorological station colocated at tribe's DNR building. The tribal members are notified of expected elevated levels of ozone the day before. Penobscot ozone data are entered into EPA's AQS, and are disseminated on real-time basis to AIRNOW and state air quality web pages. These data are used in conjunction with state-run ozone sites, to forecast ozone levels for the state and tribes. Weekly ZSP checks, monthly multipoint checks, biannual audits and bi-seasonal certifications assure that the data are of the highest quality. Spring of 2007, Penobscot's Air Quality Program ozone station had the first perfect audit in the state.
  • Air Quality Program Manager conducting indoor air quality study of tribal workspaces from March 2006 to March 2008.
  • With support from ITEP, manager has received training and tools such as Tribal Emissions Inventory software Solution (TEISS), Tribal Data Toolbox, and Turbo- QAPP.
  • Air Quality Program Manager sits on the board of the TAMS steering committee until 2009.

http://www.penobscotnation.org Click icon for EPA disclaimer. 

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