TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation invested $1.3 million to make essential upgrades and repairs to water and sewer lines serving more than 18,000 people in 10 counties throughout the tribe’s reservation.

Projects ranged from upgrading water distribution lines in rural Adair County and replacing worn equipment at a water treatment plant in Cherokee County, to rehabilitating water storage in Nowata and providing a generator for water supply wells in the Delaware County community of Kenwood.

“Providing upgrades to water and sewer infrastructure in our Cherokee communities is critical, especially now as we work to keep our most vulnerable citizens healthy and safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Many municipal and county agencies struggle under the weight of budget constraints, and the impact of a global pandemic has only made it more difficult to maintain their crucial infrastructure. Working together with these community partners, we are able to not only care for Cherokee citizens during this health crisis, but ensure they have access to the most important of needs for years and years to come.”

Funding from the tribe’s Respond, Recover and Rebuild COVID-19 relief initiative supported 17 water and sewer line projects, all of which have been completed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified frequent handwashing and cleaning of frequently touched surfaces as primary methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19. The waterline projects are helping to ensure these rural water systems can meet the demand for water usage and help to stop the spread of the virus.

“The Cherokee Nation has always been committed to building strong community partnerships while maintaining and improving water and sewer line infrastructure in Cherokee communities throughout the 14-county reservation,” said Cherokee Nation Community Services Executive Director Michael Lynn. “Because of our community partnerships, the lives of thousands of Cherokee families all across Northeast Oklahoma are being improved. These infrastructure upgrades will ensure Cherokee communities have one less cause for concern during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Kenwood Water District in Delaware County is one recipient of the Cherokee Nation’s investment, having received $25,000.

“From Day 1 of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been imperative that we focus on providing assistance to our most vulnerable Cherokee citizens, and we’ve done that, from our historic emergency food delivery efforts to investments in job training and career readiness for Cherokees who struggled with employment caused by the pandemic. We’ve also provided direct financial assistance to students, elders and Cherokees with disabilities, including our Cherokee veterans, along with those who had unexpected emergency expenses because of COVID-19,” said District 9 Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh. “I’ve seen the effect those programs have had over the past year, but the tribe’s investments in infrastructure, like these water line and sewer line projects, are just as essential to the health and safety of our citizens. These projects really are going to make a long-term, positive impact on the lives of Cherokee communities.”

The funding for Kenwood provided an important backup generator pump for the community’s water supply system, which serves 300 people.

“First and foremost, providing a backup system for the people of the community is so important because when disasters arise such as COVID-related issues or the winter weather event we just had, it’s vital to keep as much of our services up and running so we can continue to provide services to the people in any kind of weather or disaster event,” said David Poindexter, Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners of Delaware County and District 1 County Commissioner. “We have always had a great working relationship with the Cherokee Nation, and when they are called upon to help they step up for us every time and that is very much appreciated.”

The following projects were awarded Cherokee Nation Respond, Recover and Rebuild COVID-19 relief funds:

Adair County

Adair County Rural Water District No. 3, $55,000

Stilwell Area Development Authority, $67,500

Stilwell Area Development Authority, $104,500

Stilwell Area Development Authority, $63,000

Cherokee County

Cherokee County Rural Water District No. 3, $75,000

Craig County

Bluejacket Wastewater Treatment Plant, $180,000

Delaware County

Kansas Public Works Authority, $60,000

Delaware Rural Water District No. 10, $76,000

Southern Delaware County Regional Water Authority, $94,000

Kenwood Water District, $25,000

Mayes County

Salina Public Works Authority, $20,800

Muskogee County

Warner wastewater system, $180,000

Muskogee County Rural Water District No. 7, $60,000

Nowata County

Nowata County Rural Water District No. 7, $55,000

Ottawa County

Afton Public Works Authority, $75,000

Tulsa County

Skiatook Public Works Authority, $55,000

Washington County

Town of Ramona, $50,000