Merkley, Wyden announce $13M for aquatic ecosystem conservation, restoration

Columbia Gorge News

Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced Dec. 21 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.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will receive $500,000 to complete 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, said a press release.

The Deschutes River Conservancy will receive $651,542 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.

All projects will use 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.”

The 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.