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Region 5 Regional Tribal Operations Committee, Welch, Minnesota

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
before the
Region 5 Regional Tribal Operations Committee
Welch, Minnesota

June 3, 2003

Thank you, Audrey Bennet, for that introduction. I'm delighted to be with you today. I have had the chance to meet with the National Tribal Operations Committee, but this is the first opportunity I've had to meet with one of our Regional committees.

Last fall, in Washington, I reaffirmed EPA's Indian policy. At EPA, we recognize that tribal governments are the most appropriate parties for managing the environment on tribal lands. This is consistent with this Administration's overall philosophy that those closest to a challenge are almost always in the best position to meet that challenge.

Your own historic traditions of responsible stewardship of the air, water, and land make you valued partners B I think there is much we can learn from you. Of course, having a policy on cooperation is one thing B actually acting on it is another. I am pleased to be able to say to you that we are following through on our commitment to America=s Indian tribes.

Last month, the EPA announced the first 20 recipients of our new, $15 million Watershed Initiative grant program. Two of the 20 recipients are tribes. This new program, which President Bush requested in his budget for the current year, will help protect some of America's most threatened watersheds. By providing grants to locally based groups, we are helping them develop plans that best meet the unique needs their watersheds face from such hazards as nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution is the greatest threat to the purity of America's waters. It shocks me every time I say it, but every eight months, as much oil finds its way into America=s coastal waters from nonpoint sources as was spilled from the Exxon Valdez, America=s single worst environmental disaster.

These grants will result in greater protection for our watersheds. We received 176 applications for these watershed grants, flowing in from every corner of the country. The competition was tough B only the best of the best earned a grant. I'm pleased that one of the best of the best applicants is here today B the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. Their proposal to restore and monitor the water quality of the Manistee River will result in such measures as needed repairs to road and stream crossings, stream bank stabilization, and the reclamation of a sturgeon spawning site.

I am delighted EPA is able to support their efforts with a Watershed Initiative grant. Now I would like to ask Bob Hardenburgh of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians to come forward and accept this check for $600,000. Thank you.