Merkley, Wyden Announce Almost $4 Million in Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants Headed to Oregon

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced a total of $3,978,520 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) headed to four Oregon communities to assist with expenses related restoring and modernizing water infrastructure damaged by wildfire, droughts, and other extreme weather events.  

“Oregonians’ resilience has been inspiring through the recent extreme weather events and an ongoing global pandemic, but nobody should have to live without access to reliable, clean drinking water,” said Merkley. “These federal funds from USDA will help improve water infrastructure—a top concern I hear from folks in rural Oregon, and help offset costs to build barriers intended to protect vulnerable watersheds and treatment plants. I’ll continue to do all I can to deliver the federal resources needed to ensure clean and reliable drinking water for Oregonians in every corner of the state.” 

“The destructive combination of wildfire, drought and other impacts from extreme weather has devastated far too many Oregon communities and threatened the drinking water they depend upon,” said Wyden. “I’m gratified these federal infrastructure investments are heading to our state to help Oregonians protect the clean water they deserve when they turn on the tap. And I’ll keep working to secure similar resources throughout Oregon.”

A breakdown of the projects can be found below: 

City of Gold Hill, Jackson County – $215,520:  

This Rural Development investment will be used to assist with expenses related to the installation of equipment to divert contaminated storm water and replace damaged intake infrastructure. This will include replacing two pumps, the intake screens, and the installation of a steel flow diversion structure to direct debris away from the intake equipment. The water treatment plant was built in 1981 and is located on the Rogue River, downstream from multiple creek convergences that were affected by the September 2020 Labor Day wildfires, Almeda and South Obenchain. Extensive damage across these sub-watersheds and increased sediment runoff have impacted the raw water source and caused a decline in water quality and water quantity.  

Panther Creek Water District, Lincoln County – $794,000: 

This Rural Development investment will be used to assist with expenses related to the installation of a retaining wall with a fire hydrant at the base, storm drain, pipes with electrical conduit to facilitate electrical and telecommunication needs. The hillside next to the current water treatment plant was burned in the Echo Mountain fires in September of 2020. The hillside is now a landslide risk, which risks damage to the water treatment plant. The improvements are needed to prevent an imminent water supply issue caused by the Echo Mountain fire.  

Ochoco West Water and Sanitary Authority, Crook County – $400,000: 

This Rural Development investment will be used to provide spring box reconstruction, modifications to existing backwash ponds, the addition of a new chlorine feed system and the addition of new filters to the water treatment building. Site work will also include excavation and backfill of gravel and topsoil. Five spring boxes currently supply drinking water for the utility; however, two of the five boxes are damaged and not in use. One well and one water treatment plant are also not currently in use. In addition to the spring, the OWWSA has a well that was drilled in 1992 that houses an aging and non-functioning filtration system. A localized landslide event in 2020 damaged the spring boxes and caused water to stop flowing to the springs. A drought emergency in 2020 reduced flows in the OWWSA springs and the conditions carried over into 2021. These two events resulted in a significant decline in water quantity and quality.  

City of Brookings, Curry County – $2,569,000: 

*The City of Brookings also received a $24,996,000 loan from USDA to assist with the completion of the project. 

This Rural Development investment will be used to assist the city of Brookings, Oregon for expenses related to needed repairs of leaks and flow differences in the collection system, upgraded pump stations and the replacement of components of the wastewater treatment plant. The city’s wastewater collection system has excessive filtration and inflow, and the pumps are old and antiquated. Smoke and flow poking tests indicated several deficiencies that need to be addressed and several pump stations are old and require upgrades.