Cherokee Nation offers water, wastewater aid

Among the recent water projects undertaken by the Cherokee Nation Office of Environmental Health and Engineering was the Southern Delaware County Regional Water Treatment Plant. 

TAHLEQUAH – Access to clean water and proper management of wastewater have been priorities of the Cherokee Nation for decades.

The CN pursues its water objectives though a number of channels and methods, and among the most direct is its Sanitation Facilities Construction program through the Office of Environmental Health and Engineering.

“The Cherokee Nation Office of Environmental Health and Engineering administers the Sanitation Facilities Construction program authorized by Public Law 94-437 as part of our self-governance agreement with the Indian Health Service,” said Billy Hix, engineering director for the Environmental Health and Engineering Office. “This program offers assistance to both individual tribal citizens as well as community water and wastewater systems across the Cherokee reservation. Requests by individual tribal citizens are fairly evenly split between repairs to existing water and wastewater facilities and requests to install water and wastewater facilities for new homes.”

While the program is administered through the CN, any citizen of any federally recognized is eligible to apply. Applications can be downloaded at cherokee.org or can be sent through the mail by request.

Several documents are required for application. Only copies should be sent, and applicants can redact sensitive information that is not required to apply. Social Security card copies or other sensitive documents should not be included.

An applicant will need:

· Proof of citizenship in a federally recognized tribe;

· A notarized deed on file at the courthouse in the applicant’s name, or a notarized 5-year lease on file along with a copy of the deed of the property owner and a copy of the tribal membership card of the owner;

· Right of entry – if the land is restricted, right of entry will be obtained by the SFC office;

· A subdivision plat if applicable;

· Title to a mobile home if applicable – a mobile home title is required, though the process can begin with a purchase agreement;

· If a mobile home is included in property tax assessments, an assessment and proof of ownership of the home must be submitted;

· The most recent tax return for any resident of the home age 18 or older;

· Those who receive disability or Social Security benefits can submit an end-of-year statement, award letter or bank statement; and

· Those with no income must complete the “no income” portion of the application.

The applicant can close from three options: the SFC providing all construction services beginning to end, providing materials only or providing a stipend only. There are brief summaries of the options on the front page of the application.

It is also required that any mobile home “must be permanently placed on site, blocked, leveled, tied down and skirted.

A number of CN agencies received some assistance through the federal COVID relief packages, including the SFC program.

“The first round of COVID relief funding provided approximately $1.3 million in additional funding for 17 community water and wastewater projects across the Cherokee reservation,” Hix said. “We were able to help finance several community projects as well as several engineering studies to get projects ready for the American Rescue Plan funding that will be coming shortly.”

Hix said any plans for construction should include an application for water and wastewater installation without delay.

“For those tribal citizens that are anticipating or planning on constructing a new home, I would encourage them to apply early in the construction process,” Hix said. “This provides us ample time to get through our processes and get the services procured and installed prior to the home being finished.”

For information or to request help to complete an application, call 918-453-5111 or 1-800-256-3387.