The Lummi Nation Sewer and Water District is operated by a full-time staff of 12.

Washington May Invest in Native Projects to Save Local Waters

Richard Walker

The Washington state Department of Ecology has proposed investing state and federal dollars in 103 projects designed to protect the health of the state’s lakes, rivers, streams and marine waters.

The Department of Ecology’s Water Quality Program proposes $137 million in grants and loans be invested this year in 103 projects across the state – including projects planned by the Lummi Nation, the Nooksack Tribe, and a city on the Yakama Nation Reservation.

The City of Toppenish, on the Yakama Reservation, would receive a 20-year loan of $1.1 million to replace a wastewater lift station and install new sewer pipes on five streets; $50,000 of the principal would be forgiven and the loan interest rate would be 1.5 percent. Some of the sewer pipes are nearly 100 years old “and are significant sources of [stormwater] infiltration and inflow,” the city public works department reported.

The Lummi Nation Sewer and Water District would receive a 20-year loan of $120,000 to cover the costs of planning improvements to its 33-year-old wastewater treatment facility at Gooseberry Point; $60,000 of the principal would be forgiven and the loan interest rate would be 2 percent. Discharges of treated wastewater into Hale Passage do not always meet permit limits, and system components have exceeded design life, the district reported. Lummi is designing improvements that will enable the facility to provide service and meet discharge standards through 2035.

The Nooksack Tribe would receive a $139,000 grant to restore 51 acres of forest along the South Fork Nooksack River. Mature trees will shade and cool the river, help filter pollution, and create large woody debris for salmon habitat and natural stream function.

The low-interest loan program was established by Congress under the Clean Water Act to fund water-quality related projects. The grant programs were established by the state. All proposed projects are verified for eligibility and graded by the state Department of Ecology. Funding is allocated after a public comment period.

Allocations could be made as early as July 1, contingent on a final 2016 state supplemental budget and federal grants. Most of the overall funding – $128 million – is proposed for wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects. Examples include upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, getting homes off failing septic systems, and construction of projects that capture and contain stormwater.

“Our grant and loan program is a steadfast source of financial assistance to local communities, helping them make investments that last well into the future to protect water quality,” Ecology Water Quality Program manager Heather Bartlett said in an announcement of the proposed funding.

“We financially support communities that might not otherwise be able to afford these projects and create jobs at the same time. We are fixing wastewater systems, preventing nonpoint sources of pollution, and addressing stormwater pollution problems that threaten our waters.”

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