Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley announced Friday, Oct. 22, key provisions in the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill that will fund critical programs supporting economic development, research, and the safety of vulnerable populations in communities across Oregon. The bill is the basis for negotiations with the House, as Congress works to fund the government for fiscal year 2022.
“Our communities are doing impressive work to mitigate the impacts of climate chaos and to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable populations, and this bill invests in their local efforts, as well as the federal programs that support broader, nationwide efforts,” Merkley said. “From long-overdue resources for tribes’ domestic violence programs, to the highest-ever funding for the Office on Violence Against Women, and substantial funding for salmon, kelp, and other research programs right here in Oregon, this bill delivers in a big way for our state and the nation. It’s critical that the appropriations process move ahead without delay to make sure these critical investments become reality.”
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.
The Commerce, Justice and Science bill provides support for tribal and local victim assistance programs, as well as funding for scientific research that has become more urgent as the impacts of climate change become increasingly severe:
Addressing Violence Against Women: The bill contains $760 million-the highest funding level ever-for grants provided by the Office on Violence Against Women. This funding supports multiple grant programs that support training for police officers and prosecutors, state domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions, rape prevention programs, domestic violence hotlines, and women’s shelters and transitional housing support services.
Tribal Grants and Victim Assistance: Historically, the Native and tribal communities in Oregon have been disenfranchised in law enforcement, health outcomes, and victims’ rights. To address these critical issues, the committee approved a total of $121 million in grant funding for various programs, including $50 million for tribal assistance, $27 million for tribal resources, and $5.5 million for the Office of Violence Against Women for a special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction program.
Economic Development Administration (EDA): Merkley led a successful, bipartisan effort to secure $395.5 million for the program, a $50 million increase in funding. The EDA leverages existing regional assets to support economic development in rural communities.
Research Vessels: The bill continues funding for the National Science Foundation Regional Class Research Vessel Program. The vessels are being developed by Oregon State University and will greatly bolster the U.S. marine science research capacity for the next 40 years. It is expected that one of the three vessels under construction will be homeported in Newport.
Salmon Management: Salmon population management programs, including the operations and maintenance of Mitchell Act hatcheries and the implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, received $66 million. The bill includes $45.5 million to support the implementation of Pacific Salmon Treaty.
Salmon Recovery: The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund received $65 million. The president’s budget proposed eliminating this vital program. The competitive grant program is designed to address declining Pacific salmon and steelhead populations by supporting conservation efforts in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.
Sea Grant Program: The bill includes $90 million for the Sea Grant Program, a $15 million increase. The program is a priority for Oregon State University and uses targeted local investments to create economic growth, sustainable fisheries, and resilient coastal communities.
Coastal Zone Management: The Coastal Zone Management grants were funded at $88.5 million, a $1.5 million increase. The program works with Oregon and other coastal states to address some of today’s most pressing coastal issues—climate change, ocean planning, and planning for energy facilities and development. These grants help protect natural resources, improve public access, facilitate coordination between state and federal authorities, and manage hazardous areas.
Industrial Hemp: The bill includes language that directs the Drug Enforcement Administration to ensure the subsequent drug codes and scheduling guidance is updated to reflect that the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 removed hemp and its derivatives from the Controlled Substances Act. The cultivation of commercial hemp is projected to bring in more than $1 billion in economic input to Oregon’s agriculture economy.
Regional Information Sharing Activities: The program received $44 million to support the activities that enable the sharing of nationwide criminal information and other resources, a $4 million increase for the program that supports the Western States Information Network used by Oregon departments.
The next step for the bill is a full Senate vote, and eventually merging with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.
In addition to the funding allotments above, Merkley, along with Senator Ron Wyden, secured in the bill federal funding for specific community projects throughout Oregon, including:
$945,000 for the Ocean Foundation for an Oregon Kelp Forest Survey
$500,000 for the City of Beaverton for the Beaverton Behavioral Health Court
$190,000 for the Baker County Sheriff’s Office for a Radio Infrastructure Upgrade
$200,000 for the City of Eugene for Public Safety Vehicle Procurement
$2.5 million for Tillamook County for a project on Fish Passage Restoration
$585,000 for the City of Milwaukie for a Kellogg Dam Channel Study
$132,000 for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office for Community-based gun violence intervention
$1.699 million for McKenzie River Trust for the Finn Rock Floodplain Habitat Restoration Project
$648,000 for the Lane County Sheriff’s Office for Body-Worn Cameras
$606,000 for Grant County Emergency Management for Grant County Public Safety Communications
$1.545 million for Harney County Emergency Management for a Public Safety Communications Upgrade
$760,000 for Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction Program Upgrade and Expansion
“This community and its fire and paramedic services have been severely impacted by a multitude of challenges these past two years, which they have met unwaveringly—but only to be exasperated by serving the largest population in Oregon with the furthest distance to emergency medical care,” said Mike Supkis, Fire Chief of the La Pine Rural Fire Protection District. “We are humbled that the U.S. Senate and our Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have stepped in to assist with this funding for severely needed ambulances and medical equipment. It will be truly a lifesaving hand up, which this fire chief is extremely grateful for.”
“The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) treaty tribes proudly assumed stewardship of the Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction (CMOP) program last year, seeing it as a perfect complement to our efforts to combine cutting edge scientific research with traditional ecological knowledge in the estuary and ocean environments. Our co-management ethos dictates that wherever the salmon go, we go with them,” said Paul J. Ward, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “We appreciate Senator Merkley’s hard work and dedication to expand the important work of CMOP and further the understanding of the linkage between the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, both in terms of how it impacts the region’s salmon runs and how it helps us quantify the effects of climate change on this important and delicate ecosystem.”
“The health of our salmon populations and their habitats is essential to both our economy and our communities,” said Mary Faith Bell, Chair of the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners. “This $2.5 million in federal funding is a significant contribution to the Salmon SuperHwy project that will not only improve fish habitats across coastal streams, but also improve surface transportation in our rural communities that experience heavy truck traffic from agriculture and logging operations. We thank Senator Merkley for working to secure funding for the good of our salmon, their habitat, our roads and our rural economy.”
“The Oregon Kelp Alliance is excited by this opportunity to engage coastal communities in a survey of Oregon’s kelp forests to inform management, conservation, and restoration activities,” said Tom Calvanese, Coordinator for the Oregon Kelp Alliance (ORKA). “These important habitats have undergone significant changes in recent years due to warming oceans, loss of predators, and population booms of purple sea urchins, which eat kelp. The Oregon Kelp Forest Survey will put coastal communities to work on aerial drone and underwater surveys of kelp forests in Oregon, while building local capacity for kelp forest stewardship. ORKA appreciates Senator Jeff Merkley’s long-standing and strong advocacy for healthy kelp forests, and their contribution to commercial fisheries and biodiversity of Oregon’s near shore oceans.”
“The Ocean Foundation is excited and honored to serve as the Oregon Kelp Alliance’s fiscal sponsor,” said Ben Scheelk of the Blue Resilience Initiative with the The Ocean Foundation. “Our staff members provide financial, administrative, legal, and project counseling support so that project leaders can focus on program planning, fundraising, and outreach. As a result of the services provided, we are confident that the Oregon Kelp Alliance will succeed in its efforts to engage coastal communities and drive change for years to come; and we’re grateful for the generous support of all stakeholders.”
“We are extremely thankful for the Senate Appropriations Committee’s decision to award the Lane County Sheriff’s Office with body-worn camera funding,” said Lane County Sheriff Cliff Harrold. “For over five years The Lane County Sheriff’s Office has worked to identify a way to equip our deputies with this very vital policing tool. Our agency operates on a very limited budget and funding for body worn cameras has always been the greatest obstacle to obtaining them. As a result, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office is the only large law enforcement agency in Lane County that has unable to equip their sworn staff with body-worn cameras. Recorded video obtained from body-worn cameras has real value and provides transparency, ensures our professional standards, assists in officer complaint investigations, and provides great evidence in criminal investigations. All of these advantages work directly to improve the relationship between police and the communities that they serve. As we continue to balance our budget and the needs of our community, we are encouraged to know that assistance from the federal government and Senator Merkley’s direct efforts have made our goal a reality. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to provide body worn cameras for our sworn staff.”
“For many years now, the community has wanted to see the dam gone and the stream restored,” said Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba. “I’m thankful to Senator Merkley for moving this project forward. The dam blocks salmon, serves no purpose, and the bridge on top of it is earthquake vulnerable. A free-flowing Kellogg Creek that’s integral to our growing downtown is something ODOT, the City of Milwaukie, the Watershed Council and everyone else will be very proud of. The restoration of Kellogg Creek is a big step to restoring a healthy watershed which will be critical in the coming years for flood storage and cool water for threatened fish”
“The Salmon SuperHwy project in Tillamook County is living proof that we help people and local communities when we help recover and sustain fish and wildlife,” said Sarah Zwissler, coordinator of the project with Trout Unlimited. “Our work to reconnect aquatic habitat for native salmon, steelhead, trout, and lamprey while upgrading the road system our region relies on provides multiple benefits to the rural communities here. The principal drivers of our regional economy—agriculture, forestry, fishing, and tourism—all rely on healthy watersheds and well maintained roads. This $2.5 million in new federal funding will deliver a huge boost to the Salmon SuperHwy, and Trout Unlimited will leverage those funds to expand the benefits of reconnected fish habitat and climate-resilient infrastructure. On behalf of the fish and people of the Nestucca and Tillamook watersheds, we thank Senator Merkley for his dedication to securing funding for the Salmon SuperHwy and other programs that support the communities, economy, and natural resources of the Oregon coast.”
“Beaverton Municipal Court is on the cutting edge of innovative criminal justice reform,” said Mayor Lacey Beaty. “Starting in 2011 with our DUII Specialty Court Program called B-SOBR, and in 2021 with our Behavioral Health Court, our Municipal Court is constantly transforming itself to best serve our community. With the assistance of this tremendous earmark funding, this project will serve as a model for courts across the country and will be a welcomed resource at a time when many are struggling.”
“The Sheriff’s Office is grateful to be awarded this unique opportunity which will allow us to update radio infrastructure and improve communications among first responders (EMS, Fire, and law enforcement) and also with the dispatch center,” said Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash. “These upgrades will not only increase officer safety, but will also enhance the services provided to those we serve throughout our community. This project will truly be a benefit to all.”
“This is the single greatest project we can do to restore salmon in our watersheds,” said Neil Schulman, Executive Director of North Clackamas Watersheds Council, based in Milwaukie. “It’s the highest-priority barrier to salmon in Oregon owned by ODOT, and it’s been sitting there since the 1890s doing nothing. Removing it will also re-invigorate downtown Milwaukie, create a new natural area for people, and create over 550 jobs restoring the environment. It’s the definition of a win-wins”
“Once again, the Oregon delegation demonstrates an uncommon awareness and commitment to land and water conservation as a fundamental building block of community strength,” said Joe Moll, Executive Director of McKenzie River Trust. “And in this case, the communities that benefit stretch from the headwaters of the McKenzie River down through the Portland metropolitan area. We are honored to have earned the support of Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Congressman DeFazio for this reach of the McKenzie River. Investments in clean water literally run downhill, from the high cascades through the towns, cities, and communities that make up the Willamette Basin. We’ve had a number of crises these last few years especially that have underscored the direct link between healthy headwater forest and rivers and community health downstream. Once again, Oregon’s Congressional delegation has demonstrated that they see that connection and have the foresight to act on it in budget decisions.”