Merkley and Wyden Announce Key Oregon Wins in Senate Passage of Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced that included in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill that passed the Senate today are key provisions that will help Oregon communities. These include funding for tribal housing along the Columbia River, small ports along the Oregon coast, renovation for Scoggins Dam, deployment of electric vehicles, language to help address the loss of habitat for the spotted frog in Central Oregon, and an amendment that restores funding for wind energy research and development.    

“Fighting for Oregon’s priorities is my number one job as a member of the Appropriations Committee and this bill contains many provisions that will help communities in every corner of Oregon,” said Merkley. “From our coastal communities who rely on port dredging, to helping save family farms in Central Oregon, to fulfilling a promise to Columbia River Tribal members who have been living in unsafe conditions, this bill delivers for Oregon.”  “Working to ensure all parts of Oregon possess the tools to prosper is crucial to the health of our entire state,” Wyden said. “That’s why I am so gratified this bill contains such major gains in Oregon for renewable energy resources that lead to good-paying Oregon jobs, safe and permanent housing for Tribal members in the Columbia River Gorge, and protections for the Oregon coast, our environment and wildlife habitats against the very real challenge of climate change.”

Key elements of the legislation that passed the Senate today that will impact Oregon include: 

Tribal Housing: Language urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use the funding provided in the bill to develop a plan for the construction of a new tribal village at The Dalles Dam. Senators Merkley and Murray, along with Congressman Earl Blumenauer and colleagues in both the Senate and House and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, have been fighting to address the urgent need for adequate housing and infrastructure at tribal fishing access sites constructed by the Army Corps after the construction of The Dalles, Bonneville, and John Day dams.

Scoggins Dam: $2 million for Scoggins Dam upgrades. Scoggins Dam has been classified as one of the most seismically at-risk dams that the Bureau of Reclamation manages. This classification means that failure of the dam due to a large earthquake could result in significant damages or even loss of life to communities if the dam is not upgraded.  Included in the bill is $2 million for Scoggins Dam upgrades.

Port Funding: $48 million for small ports, $250 million for deep-draft harbors, $45 million for inland ports, and $23.5 million for navigation maintenance. These funds are used to help pay for dredging costs and to keep critical port infrastructure up to date. Merkley and Wyden have consistently fought in the Senate to strengthen Oregon’s small ports and make sure that small ports in America receive their fair share of funding. For small coastal communities in Oregon, access to funding for dredging is crucial to the economy. Last year there was $42.5 million in dedicated funding for small ports.  

Spotted Frog Habitat Restoration: A provision that urges the Bureau of Reclamation to provide additional funds for the WaterSmart program to fund projects that will help irrigation districts comply with the Endangered Species Act and that support collaborative approaches and reduce conflict, including litigation. The WaterSmart program could support the collaborative process that is underway within Central Oregon to conserve water, improve the habitat of the spotted frog and keep Central Oregon family farms in business.

Wind Energy Research and Development: The bipartisan Merkley-Grassley amendment that amendment restores funding for wind energy research to $95.4 million, the same level as in FY16. The initial draft of the FY17 Energy and Water Appropriations bill had contained a $15.4 million cut to the program, to just $80 million. The Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Program provides a critical platform to maintain the pace of innovation in wind energy that has allowed the cost of wind energy to drop dramatically, and allowed for the rapid growth in renewable energy across the country. States like Oregon and Iowa have recently seen a sharp increase in the share of wind generation, with Oregon currently generating 11.3% of the state’s total energy from wind power.

Electric vehicle deployment: $10 million of grant funding for communities to use towards deploying more electric vehicles.  Grants would be available for communities like Portland that have invested in charging infrastructure and to help execute plans for putting more electric vehicles on the road.

The bill was passed on the Senate floor today. The next step would be for the bill to be merged with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.