Merkley: Water Infrastructure Bill is Strong Investment in Oregon’s Future

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2024 passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. WRDA is critical, bipartisan legislation that authorizes US Army Corp of Engineers’ (USACE) projects throughout the country. These projects maintain Oregon’s ports, inland waterways, locks, dams, and other water infrastructure. Additionally, the flood and coastal storm management and ecosystem restoration work of USACE helps make our communities more resilient and sustainable as climate chaos impacts our environment. The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

“Oregon’s coast and rivers are at the center of our communities, and it is my job to help maintain the integrity of our ports, levees, dams, and other water infrastructure in them,” said Merkley, who helped write the bill as a senior member of the EPW Committee. “I fought hard to make sure this bill delivers for our state, and I am pleased these critical Oregon priorities are one step closer to becoming reality. This is an important investment in making sure Oregon’s water infrastructure is properly maintained and resilient for the future.”

Some of the Oregon projects and policy initiatives in the bill include:

Oregon Statewide Environmental Infrastructure Authority

The USACE Environmental Infrastructure (EI) Authority is a viable funding avenue for a variety of project types. Environmental infrastructure projects can include, but are not limited to, water conservation projects, ecosystem restoration projects, stormwater management, surface water protection, and environmental restoration. WRDA 2022 included a programmatic EI for southwestern Oregon. Combining the existing southwestern Oregon authority and new authority for the entire state provided in WRDA 2024, there will be a total authorization amount of $90 million once signed into law.

Aquatic Invasive Species Cost-Share Program

The Aquatic Invasive Species Cost-Share Program has a 50/50 federal/non-federal matching requirement. However, it can be difficult for state, tribal, and university partners to meet the needed 50% non-federal match. This has resulted in states not participating to their full capacity. WRDA 2024 modifies the cost-share requirement.

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Projects

WRDA 2024 included language to support the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) projects in the Walla Walla River.

Columbia and Willamette River Pile Dike Maintenance Definition Clarification

When maintained properly, pile dikes serve to train the river flow to assist with sediment transport and decrease channel maintenance over time. WRDA 2024 includes language that clarifies and directs the Army Corps’ Portland District to maintain the pile dikes in the Lower Columbia River.

Harmful Algal Bloom Demonstration Program

In partnership with Senator Ron Wyden, WRDA 2024 adds the Willamette River to the harmful algal blooms (HABs) demonstration project. HABs occur when certain environmental conditions intensify algae growth. These blooms can harm ecosystems and human health. WRDA 2024 authorizes USACE’s Harmful Algal Bloom Demonstration Program to include a focus on the Willamette River.