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

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today announced key provisions in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill that will help Oregon communities. The bill was voted out of committee today.

“Fighting for Oregon’s priorities is my top responsibility as a member of the Appropriations Committee, and this bill contains provisions that will help communities in every corner of Oregon,” Merkley said. “From fighting fiercely to ensuring the Bonneville Power Administration could never be sold, to dredging for our coastal communities, to fulfilling a promise to Columbia River Tribal members who have been living in unsafe conditions, this bill delivers for Oregon.”  

Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making.

Key elements of the legislation that will impact Oregon include:

Bonneville Power Administration: Merkley successfully fought for strong language barring the transfer or sale of power marketing assets, including the Bonneville Power Administration, noting that the transfer would violate federal law. The language highlights that such a transfer could increase costs for millions of consumers, decrease grid reliability, and reduce services to rural communities.

Port Funding: The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund received $1.34 billion, including $51 million for small ports; $287 million for deep-draft harbors; $13.5 million for inland ports; and $23 million for navigation maintenance. These funds are used to help pay for dredging costs and to keep critical port infrastructure up to date. Merkley has 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 $48 million in dedicated funding for small ports.  

The following Oregon ports received funding:

  • Chetco River (Brookings): $809,000
  • Columbia River at the Mouth: $24.13 million
  • Coos Bay: $7.7 million
  • Umpqua River (Reedsport/Salmon Harbor): $921,000
  • Yaquina Bay and Harbor (Newport): $3.1

Wave Energy Research and Development: Merkley secured at least $5 million for the Oregon State University Wave Energy Test Facility, which will be the first in-water, grid-connected wave energy test facility in the country advancing technology that has the potential to provide long-term, clean energy.

Scoggins Dam: Scoggins Dam received $2 million for 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. The report also included language urging the Bureau of Reclamation to consider other benefits like increased water supply in addition to public safety.

Tribal Housing: Language was included to encourage the Army Corp to continue its development plan for housing near The Dalles Dam. The language also urges the Army Corps to issue implementation guidance for the development plan for replacement housing near the Bonneville Dam and a study on potential housing losses at the John Day Dam that were authorized in the WIIN Act. Merkley, 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 along the Columbia River.

Electric Vehicle Deployment: Merkley secured $28 million for the deployment of electric vehicles through the Clean Cities Program, to support cities installing more electric vehicle charging infrastructure and getting more electric vehicles on the road.

Water Conservation and Habitat Restoration: A provision includes $24 million 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 habitat for endangered steelhead and the spotted frog, and keep Central Oregon family farms in business.

Willamette Locks: A final Disposition Study on the Willamette Falls Navigation Canal and Locks in Clackamas County is funded and well underway, but needs additional funds to be completed. Language was included to direct Disposition of Completed Projects funding — approximately $1 million — to studies already underway, including Willamette Locks.

National Energy Technology Lab: Merkley added language prohibiting closure of the Albany, Oregon-based National Energy Technology Lab facility, which is working to discover, develop, and deploy new technologies to support a strong domestic fossil energy path.

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.