Merkley and Wyden Announce Key Oregon Wins to Keep Oregon Communities Safe

Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee, on which Merkley sits, has passed an Interior Appropriations bill including key provisions to keep Oregon communities safe with clean drinking water and to prepare for the possibility of a large scale Cascadia earthquake.  

“This legislation will help fund water infrastructure projects so our schools and homes have clean water, and also make sure that Oregon is well prepared in the event of a Cascadia earthquake,” said Merkley. “We’ve seen over and over the price we pay by shortchanging our investments in our future.  This bill makes important down-payments on our communities’ long-term safety.”

“Safeguarding clean water statewide and ensuring that all Oregonians are properly prepared for a Cascadia quake both rank as top priorities for public health and safety,” Wyden said. “This bill takes significant steps toward achieving those objectives that are so essential to our state’s well-being.”

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

Clean Water Programs: $30 million for the Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Authority (WIFIA) that Senator Merkley has championed to help local communities finance safe drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects. This funding will help leverage $300 million in loans for water infrastructure.

In almost every town hall meeting that Senators Merkley and Wyden hold, in every corner of Oregon, they hear about the challenges that local communities are having finding funding to replace or upgrade aging water infrastructure. Clean drinking water and modern wastewater treatment systems are critical for public health and safety, strong local businesses, population growth, and clean rivers and aquifers. Incidents like the recent crisis in Flint, Michigan or the news of what is happening in Portland schools, underscore the dangers that can result when the safety of our drinking water and state of our water infrastructure are not made a priority. The bill also includes an increase of $113 million for the State Revolving Fund programs for water infrastructure.

Earthquake Preparedness: The Senators were able to secure $8.2 million for the earthquake early warning system and $500,000 for seismic stations. They were also able to insert language that calls for more research and preparation in the event of a major Cascadia earthquake.

The bill was voted out of the Appropriations Committee today. The next steps would be for the bill to be sent to the Senate floor for a full Senate vote, and eventually 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.