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Tribes to Establish TMDLs

Federally recognized Indian tribes with reservations may soon be able to apply to the EPA to run Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 303(d), the total maximum daily load (TMDL) program for U.S. waters located on those reservations.

In a proposal, the EPA, which currently establishes TMDLs on reservations, says there is significant support for the view that Congress intended to give Indian tribes full CWA authority over waters on their reservations, including waters on land owned by nonmembers of tribes.

The Agency has issued regulations that establish a process to formally give tribes approval to implement several of the CWA programs. This process, which is referred to as treatment similar to states (TAS), has been codified for Section 303(c)—water quality standards; Section 401—water quality certification; Section 402—National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for sewage sludge management; and Section 404 dredge or fill permits. For each of these programs, tribes must apply for TAS and provide the EPA with documentation showing that they have the jurisdictional authority and capability to run the program. Under the proposal, these requirements would also apply to TAS for the TMDL program.

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