INDIAN ISLAND (AP) -Members of two Indian tribes gathered along the Penobscot River to signal their determination to carry on their legal fight against state regulation of water quality of rivers that run through tribal lands.

“We will not surrender,” Penobscot Gov. Barry Dana said Monday as he held in his fist an eagle’s feather, a traditional symbol of power.

The Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes have been at odds with the state over who should regulate water quality of the rivers central to their cultures – the Penobscot and the St. Croix.

At issue is the right to grant National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits – documents that essentially give communities and companies the right to pollute at low levels while still complying with the federal Clean Water Act.

The tribes maintain that the state Department of Environmental Protection cannot be trusted to consider the interests of fish, wildlife and native people as it grants and enforces the permits.

“The state needs to wake up and realize who we are,” Dana said. “We will not give in to their authority on our body of water.”

After years of dispute, the Environmental Protection Agency came up with a compromise last October that satisfied no one. At the tribes’ request, the federal government would retain jurisdiction for Penobscot and Passamaquoddy reservations’ water treatment plants, but the state would gain control of everything else.

The state, arguing that it ought to manage the entire NPDES program, filed an appeal in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals last Thursday.

The tribes filed their appeal Friday, asking the federal government to retain jurisdiction over the entire Penobscot and St. Croix river systems.

AP-ES-03-16-04 0217EST

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