March 1, 2023
SEATTLE (March 1, 2023) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the application from the Squaxin Island Tribe to administer the water quality standards and certification programs under the Clean Water Act.
With this approval, the Tribe will assume Clean Water Act authority to manage and protect all surface waters within its reservation and trust lands. Trust lands include lands located outside of the reservation that are held in trust by the United States for the Squaxin Island Tribe. The Tribe’s reservation and trust lands collectively cover about 2,598 acres near Shelton, Washington.
“We know that water is life. EPA is committed to supporting the Squaxin Island Tribe as they develop and adopt protective water quality standards for their reservation and trust lands,” said Casey Sixkiller, EPA Region 10 Regional Administrator. “We’re excited for the Squaxin Island Tribe to take on this important regulatory responsibility under the Clean Water Act to manage and protect their tribal water resources and the health of their community.”
“The Squaxin Island Tribe – the People of the Water – is pleased that the EPA recognizes our capacity and commitment to implement water quality standards and certification programs,” said Kris Peters, Chairman of the Squaxin Island Tribe. “As stewards of the waters within our jurisdiction, we greatly appreciate this first step toward developing water quality standards that will protect the Tribe’s cultural and economic well-being and support sustainable fisheries. We look forward to continued coordination and collaboration on water quality and quantity with our federal, state, and local partners.”
The Squaxin Island Tribe applied to EPA for “Treatment in a Similar Manner as a State” (TAS) for the Clean Water Act section 303(c) water quality standards and the section 401 water quality certification programs on August 18, 2022. EPA’s Indian Environmental General Assistance Program grant funding supported the Tribe’s efforts to prepare and submit their successful for Treatment in a Similar Manner as a State under the Clean Water Act.
EPA’s approval authorizes the Squaxin Island Tribe to develop water quality standards – the regulatory foundation for protecting water quality – for all surface waters within the Tribe’s reservation and trust lands and certify that Clean Water Act-permitted discharges to those waters will meet all applicable water quality standards, once they are reviewed and approved by EPA. After tribally adopted standards are reviewed and approved by EPA, the Tribe will be able to certify that discharges comply with those standards for all surface waters within the Squaxin Island Reservation and trust lands. The Squaxin Island Tribe was previously granted TAS status for other Clean Water Act programs in 1998 and 2000: section 106 (Water Pollution Protection) and section 319 (Nonpoint Source), 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 government for implementing and managing certain federal 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; the management and protection of water resources are within the jurisdiction of the tribe; and be capable of administering the functions of the program.
EPA is hosting a virtual workshop for tribes to learn about the Clean Water Act TAS process, from March 21-23, 2023. Register for the online workshop at: EPA TAS for Water Quality Standards, Virtual Workshop.
For more information about applying for TAS and the water quality standards program, visit our Tribes and Water Quality Standards webpage.
Additional information about EPA’s work with tribes in Region 10 is available on our Tribal Programs in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska website.