Letter from NTWC to Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner following up on the meeting in April.

Dear Assistant Administrator Stoner:

On behalf of the National Tribal Water Council (NTWC), I would like to thank you for taking time to meet with the NTWC members on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. We view this meeting as successful in terms of the continual work which will take place with you and senior staff at the Office of Water. The NTWC looks forward to establishing a long and productive partnership with the Office of Water.

The following is a summary of the issues we discussed during the April 23rd meeting. In summary, we discussed six priority areas of interest to the NTWC. The six priority areas are:

  • No Reductions to the Tribal Clean Water and Drinking State Revolving Funds
  • Support Direct EPA Allocations to Tribal CWA § 106 Program
  • Tribal Nutrient Strategy
  • Increase (TAS) for Tribal CWA Regulatory programs
  • Support for SP-14b as a Performance Measure
  • Alaska Native Jurisdictional Challenges

Due to the complex nature of the sixth priority, Alaska Native Jurisdictional Challenges, I will discuss only the first five priority areas in this letter. A separate letter will be drafted for this priority, after the NTWC has had sufficient time to study this issue.

No Reductions  to the Tribal Clean Water and Drinking State Revolving Funds

The  NTWC  discussed the importance of  not reducing  the funding  investments for Tribal  Clean Water  and  Drinking  Water  State Revolving  Fund  Set-Aside programs.   The  NTWC  recognizes the difficult fiscal challenges that the Agency  is facing; however, reduction  in funding  for Tribal SRF’s  would   have   an   adverse   impact   to   Tribal   and   Alaskan   Native   Villages   (ANVs) communities unparalleled to other  non-tribal  communities. The lack of a reliable  potable  water supply  in many Tribal  and ANVs result in a high incidence of disease and infection  attributed to waterborne contaminants, which  may  result  in death  of the very young  and elderly  community members. Current  allocations of  SRF  funding  for  tribal  infrastructure water  needs  have  been inadequate, inappropriate, and  any proposed  reductions slated  for FY2014  towards  tribal  water infrastructure projects  must NOT be considered if we are to realize meaningful improvements in the health  and  welfare  of  tribal  people. Thus, we request that you revise  the Office  of Water’s projected  FY2014  budget  to reflect  no reductions to the Tribal  Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Set-Aside programs.

Support Direct EPA Allocations to Tribal CWA § 106 Program

A  national  priority  of  the  NTWC  is for  EPA  to directly  fund  tribes  to  carryout  CWA  § 106 programs  in a consistent manner  as states  are funded.   In order  to proceed  with this priority,  the NTWC  has requested the formation of an EPA/NTWC work group to create a funding  plan. This plan  will  provide  Tribes  and  EPA  with  a framework for  developing funding  targets  under  the CWA Tribal  106 program. Developing funding  targets  ensure  that Tribes  will maintain  program continuity and  sustainability. The NTWC  recognizes the  limits  on  funding  for  CWA  water programs at this time. However,  there is a dire need for an established funding  plan to exist, so that  when  future  funding  becomes  available  there  is a systematic mechanism  in place  to fund tribes on a consistent basis as states.   The Office  of Water  has committed to providing a formal written  response to our request. The NTWC  thanks  you for your consideration and looks forward to working with you to accomplish our mutual goals.

Tribal  Nutrient  Strategy

Tribes are  faced  with  many  problems with  their  surface  water  supplies. The vast  majority of these  problems  are  caused  by upstream   polluters. Nutrients are  and  have  been  a  problem  in Tribe’s waters  causing   shifts  in  the  macrophytes  and  aquatic fauna  found   in  these   waters. Typically,  nutrient  loading  is non-point  source  pollution  coming  from  agriculture, forestry, and other sources of runoff    Best Management Practices (BMP)  can alleviate  the nutrient  load.  EPA, in conjunction with  USDA,  need to further  develop BMPs,  a WQS  Nutrient  Criteria for Tribal waters,  and enforcement capability to stop  the flow  of nutrient  laden waters  into Tribal  waters. Furthermore, the NTWC recommends that EPA develop Total  Maximum  Daily Loads  (TMDL) for nutrients  as this is proven to be the best method of controlling nutrient  loading.

Increase (TAS) for Tribal CWA Regulatory programs

The  NTWC  is  committed  to  increasing  tribal  participation  in CWA  regulatory  programs.  In moving forward with this commitment, the NTWC requests EPA consider using the Clean Air Act (CAA) authorization process as an alternative procedure for delegating CWA regulatory programs to tribes. Under the CAA, EPA interprets the authorization provision as a delegation of authority by Congress to eligible tribes to manage air resources throughout their reservations regardless of its membership or land ownership status.  Whereas under the CWA provision, EPA chose to implement a policy that requires tribes to demonstrate civil jurisdiction over the land and its occupants for which it seeks to administer the regulatory authority.  The NTWC considers this  call for  jurisdictional  determination  a  barrier to  tribal  participation  in CWA  regulatory programs. Using the CAA would remove this barrier for tribes where jurisdictional or land status is disputed.

EPA and the NTWC have agreed to work together to explore the possibility of using the CAA authorization provisions for increasing tribal eligibility in administering regulatory programs.  As part  of  this  agreement  EPA  has  agreed  to  the development  of  a scoping  paper  which  will consider the similarities, differences and opportunities within each provision for advancing tribal participation.  The initial timeline for completion of this scoping paper is projected by the end of FY2013.

Support for WQ-SP14R.Nll (SP-14b) as a Performance Measure

The NTWC supports the Tribal goal of making SP-14b a long-term performance measure and will provide assistance in establishing it as an enduring measure within EPA’s Fiscal Year 2018-2022 EPA Strategic Plan.   The NTWC is committed to advancing this measure over the next three years to convert SP-14b from an indicator to a performance measure.   The NTWC will assist in this transition by encouraging more Tribes to participate in this measure. The NTWC plans to coordinate with the nine Regional Tribal Operation Committees to seek greater Tribal interest in establishing monitoring stations within their lands.  By 2015, the intent is to have eligible Tribes operating 50 or more stations reporting on water quality. The reporting should demonstrate no degradation over a two year period and help in defining annual targets in the EPA Strategic Plan.   The NTWC will work closely with the Tribes to ensure that progress is being made in meeting the criteria for this measure during the reporting period (2012 -2015). Many of the participating Tribes have expressed a need for technical assistance in the analysis of their monitoring data to demonstrate no net degradation of their waters.   NTWC requests  that both national and regional funding  be identified to support the use of regional circuit riders to assist  Tribes  in  their  monitoring  and  data  assessment  efforts. Providing such assistance will enable more Tribes to participate in this measure.

The NTWC has identified the priority areas which we wish to work in partnership with you and your senior staff. This partnership is vital to the preservation, protection and enhancement of our shared water resources.

The NTWC  would  like to formally  recognize and show our sincere appreciation for the hard work  and  commitment  that  Felicia  Wright,  OW’s Tribal  Water  Coordinator,  contributed  to making this meeting a success.

We  thank  you  for  your  time  and  look  forward  to  rece1vmg  your  written  response  m  the coordination of moving our FY 2013 National Priorities and other key areas forward.

Sincerely,

Ken Norton

NTWC Chairman

Click here to download a copy of the original letter.