EPA honors Nisqually Tribe and partners with national award for innovative watershed collaboration

Betty Q. Hixson

SEATTLE (Feb. 16, 2022) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is presenting the 2021 George F. Ames Performance and Innovation in the SRF Creating Environmental Success (PISCES) Award for Excellence in Community Engagement to the Nisqually Indian Tribe. The tribe created an innovative partnership and used funding from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) program to acquire and manage lands to protect the Mashel River, the main tributary to the Nisqually River, near Mt. Rainier in Washington. The project will improve water quality and quantity in the Mashel River watershed, protect surrounding shoreline and timberlands, and benefit steelhead and chinook salmon.

“Today we celebrate projects that center innovation and partnership while upgrading drinking water infrastructure and wastewater systems to meet the needs of communities,” said Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water Radhika Fox. “These projects embody the win-win benefits of investing in water infrastructure through the State Revolving Funds—benefits that will come to more communities across the country thanks to the historic investment coming through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

“We have to do whatever we can to protect our watershed and we can’t do it alone,” said Willie Frank III, Chairman of the Nisqually Tribe. “Projects like these where we are working with state, federal and local non-profit partners show what can be done when we work together.”

The Nisqually Tribe and partners Nisqually Land Trust, Nisqually Community Forest, and Nisqually River Council are using a CWSRF loan to acquire land for permanent ecological forestry management in the Mashel River watershed. The tribe and its partners are working collaboratively with the Washington Department of Ecology to purchase and manage properties, pooling each group’s areas of expertise and funding sources. The project aims to build a community owned and managed forest that improves and protects fish and wildlife habitat, promotes local jobs through sustainable timber management, and provides recreational and educational opportunities. So far, the project has acquired about 4,000 acres managed by the Nisqually Community Forest. The project uses a watershed-based landscape approach, applying a new model by EPA’s Office of Research and Development, Visualizing Ecosystems for Land Management Assessment (VELMA), to identify best forest management practices for protecting water quality and restoring degraded stream habitat.

EPA’s PISCES program celebrates excellence and innovation demonstrated by Clean Water SRF programs and funding recipients. Twenty-seven projects by state or local governments, public utilities, and private entities were honored nationwide. These exemplary projects demonstrate leadership in innovative financing, partnership, and problem solving while improving water quality and public health protection.

The SRFs are EPA-state partnerships that provide communities with a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality and drinking water infrastructure projects. Since their inception, EPA’s SRFs have provided more than $189 billion in financial assistance to nearly 43,000 water quality infrastructure projects and 16,300 drinking water projects across the country. To see the full list of recognized projects and learn more about the PISCES Program, visit: https://www.epa.gov/cwsrf/pisces.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed in November of 2021, provides the largest single investment in water in U.S. history, with 43 billion in funding to the State Revolving Fund Programs over five years. For 2022, EPA will allocate $7.4 billion to the SRFs for states, Tribes, and territories, with nearly half of this funding available as grants or fully forgiveness loans. For more information about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, visit: https://www.epa.gov/infrastructure.


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