The Citizen Potawatomi Nation will receive three grants totaling approximately $315,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess air quality and water quality within the tribal jurisdictional area and build tribal environmental program capacity.
“Our environmental programs are crucial in protecting and preserving our tribal lands,” said John Barrett, Chairman, Citizen Potawatomi Nation. “We appreciate our partnership with the EPA and other agencies on our environmental programs.”
The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Environmental Department will use grant funds to gather water quality data, continue monthly surface water sampling, assess the quality of the tribe’s surface waters, and evaluate tribal air quality to determine future air program needs.
“Historically, tribal lands have been overlooked when it comes to these types of activities,” said Shawn Howard, CPN Assistant Environmental Director. “The EPA doesn’t have the staff or equipment available to adequately assess the quality of our water and air, so grant funds will be used to help in these assessments. This benefits the Tribe and community by focusing on local conservation and protection efforts while training our technical staff.”
CPN currently monitors surface water quality within the CPN jurisdiction to determine if a more thorough watershed pollution management program is needed.
“It’s critical that we understand what’s happening with our water,” said Howard. “Monitoring the quality and condition regularly is the only way we can note any changes. This is important in protecting our water resources.”
The Citizen Potawatomi Nation has progressed in developing its environmental programs through partnerships with other tribes and state and federal agencies.
CPN will use EPA grant funds to partner with the Cherokee Nation’s Inter-Tribal Environmental Council to begin monitoring ground-level ozone concentrations near tribal headquarters.
“Ground-level ozone, or smog, is a potentially harmful air pollutant,” said Howard. “Because the Tribe is located between two metropolitan areas with continual air quality problems, we’ll begin monitoring near tribal headquarters. This will help us determine if it needs to be addressed.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who are at the highest risk of having health problems when ground-level ozone levels are unhealthy are older adults, children, and those who are active and work outdoors.
CPN is the only tribe to have an EPA-approved Environmental Cooperative Agreement with the state of Oklahoma. According to federal law, a tribe in Oklahoma seeking delegation of a federal environmental regulatory program administered by EPA is first required to enter into a Cooperative Agreement with the state. This landmark agreement was approved by the EPA in January 2011. Through the Cooperative Agreement, CPN works with state environmental agencies such as the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality in jointly administering their environmental programs.
CPN is one of three tribes in Oklahoma with floodplain management programs under the National Flood Insurance Program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. CPN’s floodplain management program is overseen by the Environmental Department. The main goal is to protect lives and property through effective floodplain management. The CPN Floodplain Board is comprised of seven members each serving four-year staggered terms.
CPN partners with the U.S. Geological Survey through a Cooperative Agreement to operate and maintain a river gaging station on the North Canadian River. Real-time data is collected from the station, providing valuable information regarding the quantity of water flowing down the North Canadian River. The North Canadian River serves as the northern boundary of the Tribe’s historic former reservation.
CPN environmental staff also works with the FireLake Convenience Store and Travel Plaza to conduct monthly onsite inspections of the underground and aboveground fuel storage tanks and dispensing systems. These inspections are necessary to ensure that all equipment is working properly and there are no fuel leaks.
For the last two consecutive years, the Tribe was commended by EPA for having no deficiencies or findings during EPA’s annual compliance inspections. This award was given to only two tribes out of 66 in EPA’s Region 6. In addition, CPN recently received EPA’s UST [Underground Storage Tank] Excellence Award, recognizing the Tribe for its “noteworthy contribution beyond the call of duty to the R6 Tribal Environmental Program”.