Merkley, Wyden Announce $1 Million in Federal Funding to Repair Detroit Water System Destroyed by Wildfire

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that the City of Detroit is receiving a $1 million grant to support the rebuilding of the city’s water system, which was destroyed by the Lionshead Fire in September 2020, during the state’s unprecedented wildfire season.

“When I went to Detroit to see up close the damage of the Lionshead fire and meet with affected Oregonians, I saw an unfathomable amount of destruction and heard heartbreaking stories of loss—loss of life, homes, and an entire community as we knew it,” said Merkley, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the grant. “Rebuilding the water system and restoring critical water services is a critical step, and there will be plenty more to do but I know the people of Detroit are resilient and will bounce back. Our road to recovery may be long, but we’re going to get through this together.”

“Among the painful accounts Detroit residents shared with me last fall about the devastating wildfires in the North Santiam Canyon was how hard the fallout landed on their town’s water supply,” Wyden said. “I’m glad these essential infrastructure resources have been secured to rebuild the water infrastructure, and know full well there’s much more to be done. I’ll keep fighting for that help for Detroit and all the Oregon communities working so hard to recover and rebound from these destructive wildfires.”

“After the incredible suffering our community has experienced, this grant will provide some much-needed support for critical repairs to our water system,” said Detroit Mayor Jim Trett. “As we continue to rebuild and work to provide basic necessities for our community, we thank Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden for all their efforts in advocating for quick relief, and we look forward to continued federal assistance.”

The grant is being administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development program.

“Access to safe drinking water is essential for residents to be able to return to this rural community and begin rebuilding after the devastating wildfires of 2020. This grant from USDA will help the community create an interim solution that will provide potable water for residents while the town pursues a long-term solution,” said Jill Rees, Acting State Director for USDA Rural Development in Oregon.

In October 2020, Senators Merkley and Wyden brought Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor to Oregon to tour wildfire damage, including a tour of Detroit to assess the damage and better understand the recovery needs of the city.

Last year alone, fires in the west burned over 5.8 million acres, claimed over 30 lives, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. Merkley and Wyden have kept a steady drumbeat on the need to support affected Americans and assist in communities’ efforts to rebuild, including by pressing their colleagues in Congress to include funding for wildfire recovery in upcoming coronavirus relief legislation, and to deliver critical housing assistance to those struggling to find reliable shelter in the wake of the fires.