Senior Advisor Announces Water Quality Projects to Improve Public Health on North Dakota and Minnesota Reservations
Last week it was my privilege to attend the annual United Tribes Tribal Leaders Summit and associated conferences in Bismarck, North Dakota. This annual gathering is an opportunity for tribal leaders from around the region to exchange information about current issues in Indian Country.
While there, I discussed the importance of the recently-appointed Council for Native American Farming and Ranching. The Council was selected by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to suggest changes to USDA regulations and to provide internal guidance or propose measures that would promote the participation of American Indian farmers and ranchers in USDA programs and support government-to-government relations between USDA and tribal governments. The Council is a discretionary advisory committee established in furtherance of Keepseagle v. Vilsack, which was a lawsuit alleging past discrimination by USDA against Native American farmers and ranchers in the way it operated its farm loan program.
I also met with Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Charles Murphy and shared that USDA will fund a water quality project to rehabilitate and expand a failing sewage treatment system serving members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The current system is inadequate, failing and well past its design life. This project builds on the commitment of the Obama Administration and Secretary Tom Vilsack to improve the quality of services being provided to Native Americans and Alaska Natives. This project will greatly improve public health, and allow for future expansion of homes and businesses in the area.
The Tribe will receive a grant which will be used to rehabilitate and expand an existing lagoon treatment system and construct a 24 acre wetland. The new system will meet Environmental Protection Agency standards and replace a deteriorating 40-year old lift station. The Tribe received design funds from USDA for the project in 2011.
While in Bismarck, I also toured the United Tribes Technical College, participated in the United Tribes International Powwow, and met with Tribal Leaders from the Great Plains region.
While in the region, I announced, on behalf of the Secretary, that USDA will fund a water quality project to bring water and sewer services to new homes being built on Minnesota’s Red Lake Reservation. Without this project, a number of residents of Red Lake would not have access to safe drinking water and reliable sewer services. The Tribe will receive a grant and a 40-year loan to extend water and sewer service to 45 new homes being constructed near Red Lake.
While in Minnesota, I also convened a White House Rural Council Roundtable on Native Food and Agriculture hosted by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.