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EPA approves Blackfeet Tribe’s Water Quality Standards program

Release Date: 05/02/2012
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EPA approves Blackfeet Tribe’s Water Quality Standards program

Clean Water Act program a foundation for pollution control and watershed management

Contacts: George Parrish, 303-312-7027, parrish.george@epa.gov; Lisa McClain-Vanderpool, 303-312-6077, mcclain-vanderpool.lisa@epa.gov; Tribal contact: Barry Adams, 406-338-7421, badams@3rivers.net

(Denver, Colo. – May 2, 2012) – The Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in north-central Montana has been granted the authority by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to administer the Water Quality Standards program under the Clean Water Act (CWA). With this approval, the Tribe likewise is authorized to administer water quality certifications conducted under CWA Section 401.

“EPA is excited to have the Blackfeet as a Clean Water Act partner in protecting the rivers, lakes and wetlands that are vital resources for the Tribe,” said Jim Martin, Regional Administrator of U.S. EPA’s Region 8 (Denver) office. “EPA’s approval reflects the Tribe’s effort to build the expertise and capacity to manage water quality on the Reservation.”

The Clean Water Act’s goals include restoring and protecting the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. Water quality standards established under the CWA set the Tribe’s expectations for Reservation water quality, serve as a foundation for pollution control efforts and are a fundamental component of watershed management. Specifically, these standards serve as water quality goals for individual surface waters, guide and inform monitoring and assessment activities, and provide a legal basis for permitting and regulatory pollution controls (e.g. discharge permits).

EPA’s approval of the Tribe’s Water Quality Standards program application is not an approval or disapproval of the Tribe’s standards. EPA review and approval or disapproval of specific standards is a separate Agency action.

The Tribe’s current water quality standards include designated uses, narrative and numeric criteria to protect those uses, and an anti-degradation policy, all consistent with EPA’s Water Quality Standards Regulation at 40 C.F.R. Part 131. The uses and criteria are similar to the State of Montana’s standards. The Tribe developed water quality standards, and held a public hearing in 2005. The Tribe plans to revise its standards, conduct a public hearing, and submit their revised standards to the EPA for review during the summer/fall of 2012.

The Blackfeet Tribe is the fourth tribe in Montana to obtain authority to administer the Water Quality Standards program. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation and the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation currently have standards in effect under the Clean Water Act. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation received authority for the Water Quality Standards program in 2006.

The Blackfeet Nation, based in Browning, Mont., includes 3,000 square miles and has a population of about 10,000, including about 8,500 enrolled members.

For more, visit: http://www.blackfeetnation.com/

For more information including a fact sheet, public notice and copies of the Tribe’s application materials, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region8/water/wqs/blackfeet.html

For more information regarding the U.S. EPA’s strategy for reviewing Tribal eligibility applications to administer EPA regulatory programs, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/tribalportal/laws/tas.htm