Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians receive EPA approval to administer Clean Water Act programs on reservation and trust lands
Seattle - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the request by the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians to assume responsibilities of the Clean Water Act’s water quality standards and certification programs on reservation and trust lands.
With this approval, the CTCLUSI will assume authority over all surface waters within the Reservation and trust Lands. Trust lands include lands located outside of the reservation that are held in trust by the United States for the CTCLUSI. The CTCLUSI reservation and trust lands collectively cover almost 15,000 acres of southwest Oregon.
According to Dan Opalski, Director of EPA’s Water Division in Seattle:
“We are pleased to approve the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, & Siuslaw Indians’ request for Treatment in a Similar Manner as a State. We support their efforts to protect water quality and celebrate this enhancement of our partnership in implementing the Clean Water Act. We look forward to our continued work with the tribes to protect vital resources now and for future generations.”
According to the CTCLUSI tribal Council:
"This Treatment in a Similar Manner as State recognition is an important acknowledgment of tribal sovereignty by the EPA. We are very pleased with this determination. Water is Life! Water is and always has been an important resource for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, & Siuslaw Indians and we are excited that we can now manage the tribe's waters more directly."
The CTCLUSI applied to EPA for “Treatment in a Similar Manner to a State” (TAS) for the Clean Water Act section 303(c) water quality standards and the section 401 water quality certification programs on December 17, 2019, and supplemented the application on June 12, 2020.
Specifically, this approval will enable the CTCLUSI to set water quality goals and standards - the regulatory and scientific foundation for protecting water quality - for all water bodies within the CTCLUSI reservation and trust Lands. EPA’s approval does not alter or modify water quality standards outside of the CTCLUSI reservation and trust Lands.
Today’s approval authorizes the CTCLUSI to develop water quality standards for all surface waters within the CTCLUSI reservation and trust Lands and to ensure that CWA-permitted discharges will meet all applicable water quality standards for reservation waters after those standards are reviewed and approved by EPA. The CTCLUSI have previously been granted TAS status for other Clean Water Act sections: section 106 - Water Pollution Protection and section 319 - Nonpoint Source programs, in 2002 and 2003, respectively.
Several federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, authorize 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.
EPA’s approval of the CTCLUSI’s application does not constitute an approval (nor disapproval) of the tribes’ water quality standards. Any water quality standards adopted by a tribe and submitted to EPA for action must satisfy all Clean Water Act and other 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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