Merkley, Wyden: $13 Million for Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation and Restoration Around Oregon  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced today a total of $13 million from the U.S. Department of the Interior will benefit five Oregon projects intended to protect and conserve aquatic ecosystems and habitats around the state. These projects will use the critical funding made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to upgrade fish passages, restore endangered species’ habitats, and reconnect hundreds of acres of floodplain wetlands.   

“Our waterways and fish are the lifeblood of the Northwest. With intensifying climate chaos threatening the permanent loss of plants and animals, working together to make our lands and waters healthier and more resilient has never been more important,” said Merkley. “This federal investment will support collaborative efforts to help strengthen and restore Oregon’s natural infrastructure while also enhancing aquatic habitat and ecosystems for the benefit of future generations.” 

“Our waterways and aquatic habitats are on the front lines in the fight against climate change,” said Wyden. “Restoring these ecosystems is important not only for the sake of Oregon’s beautiful outdoors, but also for the fish and wildlife that depend on these areas to survive. I applaud this significant federal investment, and I will continue to fight for the resources needed to support these ecosystems looking forward.”

Five projects around Oregon are receiving the investments:  

$651,542 to the Deschutes River Conservancy to complete the study and design of habitat restoration projects that will benefit the Oregon spotted frog (listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act) and the native Redband trout (designated by the state as a sensitive species) on the Deschutes River in central Oregon.  

$5,965,809 to the North Unit Irrigation District to upgrade existing fish screens with a smaller mesh size. This project also will provide a safer path for fish to access the fish ladder, including the brown and rainbow trout, rare brook trout, whitefish, and transient fingerling coho and kokanee. 

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife 

$500,000 tocomplete the study and design of five stream restoration projects across the East Fork Hood River, Neal Creek, and Baldwin Creek sub-watersheds in north-central Oregon. Funding will be used to remove two fish passage barriers and restore at least 3.5 miles of fish habitat. This project will improve wetland function, increase stream complexity, restore riparian habitat, and connect the floodplain to the main channel.  

$3,000,000 to complete a suite of high-priority fish passage and habitat restoration actions in the Lower Nehalem Watershed, in coastal Northwest Oregon. This project will include the removal of 4 dams and culverts and will replace 5 tide gates which will result in reconnecting 22 miles of coho spawning and rearing habitat, and 381 acres of floodplain wetlands.   

$3,175,089 to restore fish passage in the North Fork Klaskanine River by providing fish passage at the Ogee Dam. The project builds upon progress made in previous phases of a watershed-scale effort. This project will also benefit several non-listed, but culturally significant species, including coastal cutthroat trout, Pacific lamprey, and Western brook lamprey 

Today’s funding announcement comes from the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSmart Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program. This new program, made possible by the landmark Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, provides funding to states, Tribes, and other entities to collaboratively study, design, and construct aquatic ecosystem restoration projects. This program aims to improve the health of fisheries, wildlife and aquatic habitats.