Merkley, Blumenauer Introduce Columbia River Restoration Act to Clean Up Columbia Basin

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) introduced the Columbia River Restoration Act (CRRA). The CRRA would authorize $50 million over five years for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a voluntary, competitive Columbia Basin grants program for projects that assist in eliminating or reducing pollution, cleaning up contaminated sites, improving water quality, monitoring the basin, and promoting citizen engagement.

Toxins are present throughout the Columbia Basin, and are harmful to humans, fish, and wildlife. These contaminants make their way into fish tissue and can be dangerous to humans if consumed. Some of these toxins are known to cause cancer and have been linked with neurological, developmental, and reproductive problems, including birth defects and learning disabilities. 

“A clean Columbia River is vital to support Oregon’s fishing and recreation industries, and to protect the health of Oregonians,” said Merkley. “At the same time, the Columbia River basin is the only large aquatic ecosystem that currently receives no dedicated funding to clean up and monitor toxics, leaving Oregonians exposed to the dangers posed by contaminated water and food. It’s time for Congress to act and protect this valued resource.”

“The Columbia River provides energy, food, jobs, and recreation for the entire region, and yet we have let it become dangerously polluted,” said Blumenauer. “Everyone in the Pacific Northwest appreciates the many ways in which the Columbia Basin enriches our lives, and we can’t just take it for granted. The CRRA is a crucial step toward restoring the river, and I look forward to working with Senator Merkley and my other colleagues to advance this vital legislation.”

The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. It is 1,253 miles long and its drainage basin extends into seven states. Approximately 8 million people inhabit the Basin, including members of several Tribal nations and angling groups who frequently fish in its waters. Historically, the Columbia and its tributaries have constituted the largest salmon-producing river system in the world, with annual returns peaking at 16 million fish.