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EPA Funds California, Nevada Native Tribe Water Projects

Jared Blumenfeld / EPA

Josh Simmons, Chumash Environment Director (L) and Bill Peters, General Manager of the Chumash Casino Resort (R) stand alongside solar thermal units at the Chumash Reservation in Santa Ynez, California.

Jared Blumenfeld / EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced more than $30 million in funding to native tribes in California and Nevada.

The announcement came at the 23rd Annual Regional Tribal Conference Tuesday in Reno, Nevada.

The EPA says since most tribes in the Pacific Southwest have small governments, one goal of the funding is to help them develop programs to protect the environment. 

"They are able to do a lot with a little and their overhead is very low," says EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld. "And often they're in very remote parts of California and Nevada." 

He says tribes set up their own legal framework for dealing with the environment.

"If they didn't receive EPA money they probably wouldn't be able to have any kind of environmental program at all," says Blumenfeld. "With it, they're able to do amazing things."

For example, Blumenfeld says, the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission will provide drought assistance to tribes in the Eastern Sierra, including training in voluntary water conservation.

Other California tribes will use EPA funds for water quality and infrastructure projects, and tribal environmental programs. 

In California, $12.5 million will support water quality projects and water infrastructure for tribes. Approximately $7.3 million will help tribes support a wide variety of water quality projects including watershed protection and restoration, water and energy efficiency, wastewater reclamation, and treatment systems.

CWA-Creek -PThe Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe conducted a bio assessment of streams around Pyramid Lake in early 2015.  EPA / Courtesy

Another $5.2 million will go to the California Indian Health Service offices to support tribal drinking and wastewater water infrastructure, plant operator training, and technical assistance.

The funds provided to Nevada tribes will pay for water quality and other environmental projects. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe was awarded $35,000 to reduce nitrogen loading on the Truckee River through a constructed wetlands project.   

"Tribes have made great progress in protecting the environment and improving public health in Indian Country," says Blumenfeld.

The EPA says half of federally-recognized U.S. tribes are concentrated in California, Nevada and Arizona.

"An amazing amount of great work is happening by tribes in relation to the environment, whether it's the drought, or fire issues, emergency response, all the way through restoring rivers and cleaning the air," says Blumenfeld.