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.
Click here to download a copy of the original letter.