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Tribal Government Relations


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Tribal Government Relations

Oregon DEQ consults and coordinates with the nine federally-recognized tribal nations in Oregon on air quality, water quality and land quality issues. DEQ works with tribes on a government-to-government basis to understand and address tribal interests related to DEQ's environmental initiatives, policy and program development, and proposed legislation. DEQ partners with tribal nations to increase our collective ability to protect and enhance Oregon’s environment and people’s health.

DEQ’s internal tribal relations activities are focused on improving consultation and communication between agency and tribal managers and staff, as well as providing training to DEQ employees on tribal government, sovereignty and issues of interest to tribal nations.

Current Activities

DEQ is engaged with Oregon tribes in a wide variety of environmental-related projects. Here are a few key projects:

  • DEQ staff and Umatilla tribe membersImplementing a new fish consumption rate.
    DEQ worked collaboratively with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and other tribal nations to revise the “fish consumption rate” and associated water quality toxics criteria to protect people who eat fish and the tribal way of life. The rule change increased the fish consumption rate from 17.5 to 175 grams per day and reduce the amount of pollution to Oregon waters. See also Water Quality Standards for Toxic Pollutants.

  • Cleaning up the Portland Harbor Superfund Site.
    DEQ is working closely with six tribal nations to investigate and clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund Site in the lower Willamette River so that it no longer poses a threat to people and the environment. Tribal nations partnering in this work include the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Siletz, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Yakama Nation, and Nez Perce Tribe.

  • Reducing pesticides in the Yamhill Basin.
    DEQ, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz are working collaboratively with other partners to identify problems and improve water quality associated with pesticide use in the Yamhill Basin. This “Pesticide Stewardship Partnership” combines local expertise, water quality sampling and DEQ’s toxicology assistance to encourage and support voluntary changes that cause measurable environmental improvements.

  • Reducing toxic pollution in the Columbia River.
    <DEQ is working on this EPA-directed initiative by implementing a Pesticide Stewardship Partnership in the Walla Walla Basin, working with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Yakama Nation, Nez Perce Tribe, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The group of tribal, state and federal partners is also developing a "State of the River" report describing toxics in the Columbia River.

  • Columbia River channel deepening.
    DEQ is working with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission on the Columbia River channel deepening project (PDF), which is increasing the depth of the Columbia’s navigation channel from 40 to 43 feet to allow passage of larger ships. CRITFC is overseeing implementation by providing feedback to DEQ based on field observations to help protect water quality during the project. The channel deepening work is expected to be complete by 2010.

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Background

DEQ developed a Tribal Government-to-Government Relations Program in 1996 following Governor Kitzhaber's signing of Executive Order (EO) 96-30.  In 2001, the Oregon Legislature approved Senate Bill 770 which institutionalized the executive order into law. Under this law, State agencies are directed to improve their working relationships with the nine federally recognized Tribes in Oregon.

DEQ's official response to the directives of SB 770 is contained in our tribal relations policy.  The Statement expresses DEQ's commitment to maximize inter-governmental relations between the agency and the nine tribes.  Measures include:

  • Maintain a Tribal Liaison responsibility in the Director's Office
  • Provide periodic training and educational opportunities to staff on tribal sovereignty and related issues
  • Institutionalize the consideration of tribal interests and issues in planning and decision-making activities
  • Establish a familiar day-to-day working relationships between agency staff and tribal environmental staff.

DEQ's Tribal Liaison meets regularly with individual tribal nations and participates in tribal-state workgroups focused on natural resource management and protection of tribal cultural resources. DEQ’s Tribal Liaison also facilitates leadership-level meetings between tribal and agency officials, provides tribal relations training to DEQ employees and other groups, and advises DEQ managers and staff on opportunities for strengthening relationships with tribal nations. Christine Svetkovich serves as DEQ’s Tribal Liaison, and she can be reached at 503-229-5046.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also an important participant in government-to-government relations between DEQ and the tribal governments. EPA has a federal trust responsibility to protect and restore the lands and environmental  treaty resources (on-and-off reservation) of Indian Tribes. Regulation of federal environmental laws on tribal lands is also the responsibility of EPA. However, tribes may seek direct delegation authority from EPA to carry out federal and tribal environmental regulations on tribal lands.  DEQ participates in a partnership with EPA and tribal governments in carrying out their respective responsibilities for protecting and enhancing Oregon's environmental resources.

DEQ developed the Cultural Resources Protection Guidance, a resource for agency staff and the regulated community that describes the federal and state cultural protection laws.

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Federally Recognized Tribes of Oregon

Annual Reports on DEQ-Tribal Relations

All reports are PDF.

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Resources

Contact Information

Christine Svetkovich
Liaison to Tribal Nations
Department of Environmental Quality
2020 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 400
Portland, OR 97201
Phone: (503) 725-2180
Fax: (503) 229-6945
E-mail

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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 811 SW Sixth Ave., Portland, OR 97204-1390
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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