Washington, DC- Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today announced that the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) has come out of the House and Senate conference committee this week and will be voted on by the House and Senate next week. The bill contains many job creation and funding opportunities for Oregon communities. In particular, Senator Merkley highlighted the increased funding in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for small ports in Oregon and the inclusion of a new program championed by Merkley to help local communities finance safe drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects.
“The best thing we can do right now is to make needed investments in our infrastructure that help create middle class jobs,” said Merkley. “This bill creates jobs by funding critically needed dredging in our coastal ports. In addition, this bill contains my program for financing much-needed water projects across America.”
Senator Merkley has consistently fought in the Senate to make sure that the HMTF is used for its intended purpose of maintaining ports and that small ports in America receive a share of this funding. For small coastal communities in Oregon, access to funding for dredging is crucial to the economy. The legislation announced today will guarantee that small ports across Oregon and the nation receive almost $90 million a year, more than doubling the $40 million that Senator Merkley earlier fought to include in this year’s budget.
The Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (WIFIA) was introduced by Senator Merkley in 2012 and was included in the Senate-passed WRDA bill in 2013. The WRDA legislation establishes a five-year pilot program to allow the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to provide loans and loan guarantees for flood control, water supply and wastewater infrastructure projects. This financing will allow more communities to undertake critical construction, maintenance, and repairs without saddling local ratepayers with big bills. Additionally, the WIFIA program includes a “Buy American” provision, which ensures that materials used in WIFIA projects must be purchased in America to help support American manufacturing.
In almost every town hall meeting that Senator Merkley holds, in every corner of Oregon, he hears 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. And these projects have the potential to put thousands of Oregonians to work.