This document provides guidance and practical templates for tribes interested in obtaining federal funds to manage nonpoint source pollution under section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act. Specifically, it describes the 319(h) process and updates previously released section 319(h) guidance.
Overview of Nonpoint Source Pollution
State, territorial, and tribal reports show that nonpoint source pollution is responsible for more than half of the nation’s remaining water quality problems (USEPA, 1995). It occurs when rainfall, snowmelt, or irrigation runs over land or through the ground, picks up pollutants, and deposits them into rivers, lakes, or the ocean or introduces them into ground water.
Though the relative impact from a few nonpoint sources might be small, the cumulative impact from many nonpoint sources degrades water quality (USEPA, 1994b). Major sources of nonpoint pollution include agriculture, unrestricted livestock grazing, poor siting and design of roads, highways, and bridges, forestry, urban runoff, abandoned mines, construction activities, and hydromodification, such as the building and maintenance of dams and levees. Other sources include improper lawn and garden maintenance, faulty septic systems, improper construction of marinas and careless boating habits, and storm drain dumping. Atmospheric deposition of pollutants originating from power plants, factories, trucks, and automobiles is also considered a source of nonpoint pollution.
In 1987, Congress added sections 319 and 518 to the Clean Water Act to enable states, territories, and tribes to address the problems caused by nonpoint source pollution. Section 319 established baseline requirements for state and territorial nonpoint source management programs and authorized national funding to support implementation of approved management programs. Section 518 authorized EPA to treat federally recognized Indian tribes in the same manner as states. (USEPA, 1994b).
Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act is the principal source of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding dedicated to nonpoint source control. Under section 319(h), Congress appropriates money to EPA for controlling nonpoint source pollution for distribution to eligible states, territories, and tribes based on an allocation formula. Section 518 authorizes EPA to grant up to one-third of 1 percent of national 319(h) program funds for tribes. EPA annually awards section 319(h) grants to tribes that submit approved nonpoint source pollution control programs. Money that EPA does not award during one fiscal year is carried over for use by tribes during the following fiscal year. Each grant awarded under section 319(h) requires a 40 percent nonfederal match. If a tribe demonstrates a special financial need, however, EPA may and frequently does approve a 10 percent nonfederal match.
Examples of tribal projects that have received awards under section 319(h) include the following (USEPA, 1994b):
- Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians—Repaired streambank and riparian areas damaged from storm events and riparian vegetation loss.
- Campo Band of Mission Indians—Restored lost vegetation and habitat to reduce erosion and improve water quality along Campo Creek.
- Colville Tribes—Completed the Buffalo Creek Restoration Project, which restored the stream and returned it to a natural ecosystem.
- Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation—Protected streams and springs from the effects of unrestricted livestock grazing in Umatilla River watershed where salmon are being restored.
Tribes should work with EPA’s Regional Nonpoint Source (NPS) Coordinators and Tribal Coordinators, as well as state nonpoint source management agencies, during preparation of nonpoint source assessments and management programs. Refer to the list of contacts at the end of this document for information on the EPA staff who coordinate nonpoint source control programs and tribal programs for EPA. This list also indicates which states are in each of the 10 EPA Regions.
Requirements for a Section 319(h) Grant
Tribes interested in obtaining section 319(h) funds will need to submit a package containing several documents to the appropriate EPA Regional Office. The documents include:
- Nonpoint source assessment report. The nonpoint source assessment report describes existing and potential nonpoint-source-related water quality problems on tribal lands, using existing water quality data. The report identifies the nature, extent, and effect of nonpoint source pollution and the causes of such pollution. It should also describe existing programs and methods used for controlling the pollution (USEPA, 1987). This report has to be approved by the appropriate EPA Regional Office.
- Management program. The nonpoint source management program describes how the tribe intends to correct and/or prevent the existing and potential nonpoint source problems identified in the assessment report over the four fiscal years following submission of the program. If the tribe is unable to develop a nonpoint source management program that addresses all nonpoint source categories, the management program can focus on nonpoint sources identified as priorities. The management program must also be approved by the appropriate EPA Regional Office.
- Grant application. The grant application requests funding to support a particular activity or activities described in the approved management program or related to the solution of a nonpoint source problem identified in the assessment report. The application must include a work plan describing how the requested 319(h) funds will be used and establishing dates for accomplishing specific milestones (USEPA, 1994a). EPA evaluates the proposal and work plan.
- Documentation of tribal eligibility. A tribe must establish tribal eligibility to obtain a section 319(h) grant. This process was formerly known as qualifying for “treatment as a state.” To meet the eligibility requirements, the tribe must:
- Be federally recognized.
- Demonstrate that it has substantial governmental duties.
- Demonstrate that it has legal authority or jurisdiction to carry out the purposes of the grant on tribal lands.
- Demonstrate its capability to carry out the activities proposed in the grant application. EPA considers the approved assessment report, management program, and grant application sufficient evidence of the tribe’s capability. Necessary documentation of the other elements of tribal eligibility are discussed in greater detail in the “grant process” section of this handbook on pages 32-35.
Approval by EPA
In addition to reviewing the tribal 319(h) application for approval at the regional level, EPA Regional Offices send the complete tribal section 319(h) application package to the Nonpoint Source Control Branch at EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC, for Headquarters’ concurrence if it is the first tribal application for a section 319(h) grant in the Region.
At EPA Headquarters, these complete application packages are reviewed for approval in the Office of Water, the Office of General Counsel, and the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
If other tribes in the Region have already received section 319(h) program approval, the portions of the tribal section 319(h) application package relating to tribal eligibility are reviewed and approved in the Regional Office only. The grant application, nonpoint source assessment report, and nonpoint source management program, together with a brief memorandum recommending approval of the grant, are then forwarded by the Region to Headquarters for determination of the final grant amount.
Once a tribe has received an initial 319(h) grant through the process described above, it is automatically eligible for a section 319(h) grant in subsequent years. The tribe need only submit an acceptable grant proposal and work plan to the Regional Office setting forth what it proposes to accomplish with the new grant. The EPA Region will review the proposal for consistency with the tribe’s assessment report and management program and forward the proposal, with its recommendation, to Headquarters for a determination of the final grant amount. Because the amount of funds available for section 319(h) grants to tribes is limited, the tribal funds will continue to be allocated by EPA Headquarters.