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Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe - Water Quality Control Plan FINAL 2008


In 1983, the Federal government established a Federal Indian Policy to treat Tribal governments on a government-to-government basis, and to support the principle of self-determination and local decision making by Indian Tribes. The 1987 Amendments to the Clean Water Act (CWA) added Section 518. This section authorizes the USEPA to treat Federally recognized Indian Tribes in a similar manner as states for certain provisions of the Act, including the water quality standards program. Water Quality Standards (WQS) play a critical role in the nation's water quality improvement programs. By establishing the goals for a water body, WQS provide the regulatory and legal basis for point source and nonpoint source water quality-based control beyond those required by the technological requirements of the CWA (USEPA 1990).

The first step for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT) to establish WQS within Reservation borders is to qualify for Treatment in a similar manner As States (TAS), or program authority for the WQS program. To do this, a Tribe must met the following: (1) it must be Federally recognized by the Department of the Interior and meet the definitions found in Section 518 of the CWA; (2) it must have a governing body which carries out substantial duties and powers; (3) it must be able to demonstrate authority to manage and protect water resources within the borders of the Reservation; and (4) in the judgment of the Regional Administrator (USEPA), there must be a reasonable expectation that it is capable of carrying out the functions of an effective WQS program. On the basis of the PLPT’s capabilities, and their history of involvement with local and regional water quality and quantity issues, USEPA granted program authority under Section 106 of the CWA to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe to develop a WQS program in May of 1990.

The PLPT approached the University of California, Davis - Limnological Research Group (Dr. John E. Reuter and Dr. Charles R. Goldman) to help undertake the task of developing a reasonable and scientifically sound set of WQS, which when implemented would help protect the beneficial uses of Pyramid Lake and that portion of the Truckee River within the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation (PLIR). The PLPT has a long history of actively pursuing the management and protection of its waterbodies. It was therefore concluded at the beginning of the WQS process that while the PLPT would use those standards established by the State of Nevada which it considered appropriate for protecting existing and desired beneficial uses of the river, the scientific team would develop site-specific standards for the Lake and river where needed. This was to be done primarily on the basis of new and existing, site-specific, scientific data and experimentation. The standards recommended for Pyramid Lake are, in fact, the first set of standards ever developed and applied to the Lake; Pyramid Lake is not included in the State of Nevada WQS.

Since both Pyramid Lake and the Truckee River are important regional and national water bodies, and since the development of site-specific criteria were essential in these relatively unique systems, a diverse and comprehensive series of investigations were required. For Pyramid Lake, our approach included: evaluation of historical data, detailed limnological monitoring, field and laboratory experiments, limnological research, and modeling. Examples of topics investigated included, but were not limited to; measurement and evaluation of physical and chemical parameters, evaluation of nutrient and particulate matter, phytoplankton and zooplankton ecology, algal growth bioassays and nutrient limitation, measurement of surficial sediment composition, paleolimnology, measurement of primary productivity and algal biomass, internal and external loading of nutrients, development of nutrient budgets for carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, estimates of sedimentation rates, evaluating susceptibility of the Lake to anoxia, primary productivity and dissolved oxygen modeling, modeling of total dissolved solids concentration, nonpoint source management and assessment, and Lake and watershed management. The results of these studies have been published in a series of technical reports and peer review scientific publications (see Reference List in this volume). The volumes entitled, Pyramid Lake, Nevada, Water Quality Study 1989-1993, Volume I - Limnological Data, Volume II - Limnological Description, Volume III - Nutrient Budgets, and Volume IV - Modeling Studies, have been widely distributed regionally and contain much of the information used for developing the Pyramid Lake standards. A variety of sources including, but not limited to, historic and current monitoring data base, and new research/monitoring, existing State of Nevada WQS for the Truckee River, and numerous criteria published by the USEPA were used in the development of the Truckee River standards.

We believe this Water Quality Control Plan (WQCP) and standards recommended herein, are scientifically sound using the best data available at this time. Clearly, there are issues which still require further investigation such as, modeling of dissolved inorganic nitrogen dynamics in the river, ecological physiology of river periphyton, influence of augmented river flow on nutrient, dissolved oxygen and TDS levels, endocrine disruptor compound affects on aquatic life, and the management of local and regional nonpoint source pollution. The PLPT continues to have interest in addressing these and other related issues as part of its on-going commitment to water quality protection of its aquatic resources. The PLPT intends to further refine these standards as part of its triennial review and as new scientific data and methodologies becomes available. The PLPT will also continue its active role in regional dialogue on related water quality and water quantity issues. These standards are best viewed as one of many steps the PLPT has, and will, take in their mission of environmental stewardship.

The PLPT conducted public workshops on January 8, 2001 and April 3, 2007 in the Tribal Chambers located in Nixon, NV in accordance with 40 CFR Part 25. The PLPT also participated in several other local and regional meetings to present on the WQCP. At the request of several stakeholders, the public comment period was extended another 90 days to July 18, 2007 to ensure all interested and affected members of the public were given opportunity to review and comment on the PLPT’s WQCP. Public and agency comments were solicited and received, to which the PLPT responded by written comments.

On January 30, 2007 the PLPT received TAS Program Authority for CWA Section 303 Water Quality Standards and CWA Section 401 Certification by the USEPA Region IX Administrator. The final version of the WQCP was reviewed by the Tribal Interdisciplinary Team (TIDT) and approved by the Pyramid Lake Tribal Council on September 19, 2008. The WQCP was then sent to the USEPA Region IX Regional Administrator on October 3, 2008 for final review and approval.

wqcp_oct_2008_draft1.pdf1.21 MB