EPA Honors Nisqually Tribe and Partners with National Award for Innovative Watershed Collaboration

SEATTLE (February 16, 2022) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency features George F. Ames’ 2021 Performance and Innovation in the SRF Creating Environmental Success (PISCES) Excellence in Community Involvement Award to the Nisqually Indian Tribe. The tribe created an innovative partnership and used funds from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) program to acquire and manage land to protect the Mashel River, the main tributary of the Nisqually River, near Mount Rainier in Washington. The project will improve water quality and quantity in the Mashel River watershed, protecting the shoreline and surrounding forest lands and benefiting steelhead and chinook salmon.

“Today we celebrate projects focused on innovation and partnership while improving drinking water infrastructure and sanitation systems to meet the needs of communities,” said Radhika Fox, deputy administrator of the EPA’s water office. “These projects embody the win-win benefits of investing in water infrastructure through the state’s revolving funds – benefits that will benefit more communities across the country through the historic investment made through bipartisan infrastructure law.”

“We must do everything we can to protect our watershed and we cannot do it alone,” said Willie Frank III, Chairman of the Nisqually Tribe. “Projects like these where we work with state, federal and local nonprofit 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 forest management in the Mashel River watershed. The tribe and its partners work 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 enhances 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 approximately 4,000 acres managed by the Nisqually Community Forest. The project uses a watershed-based landscape approach, applying a new model from EPA’s Office of Research and Development, Visualizing Ecosystems for Land Management Assessment (VELMA), to identify best forest management practices to protect water quality and restore degraded stream habitat.

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

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 its 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 Act, signed in November 2021, provides the largest single water investment in U.S. history, with $43 billion in funding for state revolving fund programs across five year. For 2022, the EPA will allocate $7.4 billion to SRFs for states, tribes, and territories, with nearly half of that funding available as grants or fully repayable loans. For more information on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, visit: https://www.epa.gov/infrastructure.

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