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EPA gives ok to the Quinault Indian Nation to implement Clean Water Act programs

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Bill Dunbar (

Seattle -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the request by the Quinault Indian Nation to assume responsibilities of the Clean Water Act’s Water Quality Standards and Certification programs. 

Specifically, this approval will enable the QIN to establish the regulatory and scientific foundation for protecting water quality by setting water quality goals and standards for the surface water bodies within the reservation. 

The tribe applied to the EPA for “Treatment in the Similar Manner As a State” TAS for the Clean Water Act Section 303(c) and the 401 Certification programs in 2012, and amended its application in 2017. After careful review of the application, and all the comments received during public comment opportunities, the EPA has approved the tribe’s application. The approval authorizes the tribe to develop water quality standards for all surface waters within the reservation, and to ensure that CWA-permitted discharges will meet the requirements of the water quality standards for reservation waters after the standards are approved by the EPA under the CWA.

The QIN has previously been granted TAS status for CWA Section 106 (Water Pollution Protection) and Section 319 (Nonpoint Source) programs.  

 “The Quinault Indian Nation has long maintained strong environmental programs, and their commitment to a strong water quality program was evident in their application,” said Chris Hladick, the Regional Administrator for the agency’s Region 10 office in Seattle.  “We look forward to the Quinaults’ continued engagement with the EPA, the State of Washington, and stakeholders in the local counties as they implement their new authorities.”

With this approval, the tribe will assert authority over all surface waters within the reservation -- approximately 1,292 miles of rivers and streams, 3,609 acres of lakes (including Lake Quinault), and 11,543 acres of wetlands.  The reservation also includes sections of tidelands along the Pacific Ocean. The EPA’s approval action does not alter water quality standards outside of the reservation, but does provide the QIN additional ability to weigh in on certain upstream activities that could have impacts on reservation waters.


Several federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, authorize the EPA to treat eligible federally recognized Indian tribes in a similar manner as a state for implementing and managing certain environmental programs. The basic requirements for applying for TAS are that the tribe must be federally recognized; have a governing body to carry out substantial governmental duties and powers; have the appropriate authority; and be capable of administering the functions of the program.

The EPA’s approval of the Quinault Tribe’s application does not constitute an approval (nor disapproval) of the tribe’s water quality standards. Any water quality standards adopted by the tribe and submitted to the EPA for action must satisfy all the CWA and regulatory requirements, including public participation to ensure an appropriate opportunity for any interested entities to provide input on the proposed water quality standards.

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