The Forest County Potawatomi Community is taking a first step towards controlling water quality on its reservation. The Wisconsin DNR is looking for public input on the proposal.
The tribe has applied to the EPA for treatment as state. Which means it would have authority to uphold water quality standards on the reservation. Potawatomi spokesperson George Ermert says to do that the tribe must prove that is has the resources to manage water quality.
“So what this does, this treatment as state step gives the tribe the authority to administer and establish a water quality standards program in the same way a state would do it.”
The Wisconsin DNR is looking for public input on the application. That input will be sent on to the EPA.
DNR Water Evaluation Section Chief Brian Weigel says it’s most relevant for users upstream from the reservation that would be affected by changes in water quality standards.
“The biggest thing is that there’s another regulating authority in the area. So for example when water goes onto a tribal property, it is regulated by their water quality standards. So upstream entities need to be protective of downstream uses.”
But Potawatomi spokesperson George Ermert points out that the current application falls short of proposing new standards. If approved, he says the tribe would only have authority to enforce current state standards…with the option of later proposing its own.
Only three of the state’s tribes have authority to set their own water quality standards: Lac du Flambeau, Bad River and Sokaogoan bands of Lake Superior Chippewa.