The community has been approved to develop water quality standards under the Clean Water Act
The U.S. EPA announced approval of an application by the Gila River Indian Community, located south of Phoenix, Arizona, for “treatment in a similar manner as a state” under the federal Clean Water Act.
“The Gila River Indian Community now has the authority to protect their rivers and streams under the Clean Water Act,” said Mike Stoker, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This will allow the tribe to continue to build successful environmental programs.”
Stoker presented a signed Certificate of Achievement to Stephen R. Lewis, Governor of the Gila River Indian Community, in a ceremony at the Pacific Southwest Region’s 26th Annual Tribal/EPA Conference in San Francisco.
EPA’s decision promotes tribal self-governance, empowering the tribe to develop water quality standards and to issue water quality certifications for federal actions on their lands in order to protect tribal waters, which include the Upper and Lower Gila Rivers and the Santa Cruz River.
There are now 60 tribes in the nation with this authority, 18 of which are in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region and six of them in Arizona.
The Gila River Indian Community can now develop water quality standards for their waters within their reservation and issue water quality certifications for federal actions on their lands, similar to the process used by states under Sections 303(c) and 401 of the Clean Water Act. After the tribe develops and EPA approves the standards, the tribe would administer its water quality standards program.