Merkley, Wyden Announce Federal Grants to Assist Oregon Tribes with Water Quality and Wetlands Restoration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that several major grants will be going from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help tribal communities in Oregon improve water quality and restore wetland habitats. Merkley chairs the Senate’s Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the EPA and the grant programs that awarded this funding to Oregon tribes.

“Nothing is more critical to the health and vitality of a community than water,” said Merkley. “Too often, Native American communities across America have faced environmental threats to their water sources and wetland habitats. These grants will help ensure water quality and conservation for four of Oregon’s tribes, and I look forward to continuing to work with Oregon’s sovereign tribal nations to ensure they have the resources their communities need to thrive.”

“Tribes in Oregon and nationwide deserve top-notch protections for their drinking water as well as for their wetlands that support longstanding community fishing traditions,” Wyden said. “I’m gratified these federal investments to strengthen those protections are now dedicated to these communities in our state, and I’ll keep working to provide similar resources throughout Oregon.”

The grant amounts and projects are:

  • A $99,992 wetlands grant for the Klamath Tribes to purchase and install a solar powered water pump to help minimize external nutrient loading from the agricultural properties around Upper Klamath Lake;
  • A $100,000 wetlands grant for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians for habitat improvements to help support juvenile salmon and lamprey along the Siletz River;
  • A $99,587 wetlands grant for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) to support ongoing monitoring and ecosystem restoration to improve the water temperature of Meacham Creek;
  • A $152,417 wetlands development grant for the Klamath Tribes for a Phase 2 groundwater and surface-water monitoring study for the Klamath Marsh, which will help support future restoration and acquisition projects; and
  • A $240,917 wetlands development grant for the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians to support development of a Wetland Program Plan for lands under the tribes’ jurisdiction.

“The Tribes place a high priority on restoring water quality and water quantity on the former Reservation,” said Dr. Stan Swerdloff, the Klamath Tribes’ Aquatic Resources Director. “The Tribes are very appreciative of the funding provided by EPA, and the support of Senator Merkley. The water quality project will reduce nutrient loading from agricultural  properties around Upper Klamath Lake, while the wetlands project will provide vital information on surface and groundwater balance in Upper Klamath Marsh.”

“These funds will help the Siletz Tribe protect and enhance fish habitat in the heart of our reservation land where climate change has negatively affected water quality and quantity,” said Dee Pigsley, tribal chairman, Siletz Tribe.

“The CTUIR is investing the EPA funding to improve water quality and fisheries to support harvest opportunities for Treaty fishing and non-Tribal fisheries alike. Our work has other benefits as well,” said Eric Quaempts, CTUIR Department of Natural Resources Director. “One of the anticipated impacts of climate changes is regional increases in stream temperatures, and our work to restore floodplains allows the floodplain to store river water longer, helping to cool it to offset this impact. Our floodplain restoration work also reduces the impacts of flooding for downstream communities, and we saw the benefits of that in 2020, when our restored floodplain project areas handled record floods better than constrained floodplains. We appreciate EPA’s investment in our work, and the investments of co-funders like the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and we look forward to continuing this work in the future.”

“The EPA funds provided to CTUIR is to improve water quality and fisheries that will benefit both Treaty and non-Treaty fisheries,” said Kat Brigham, CTUIR Board of Trustees Chair.  “CTUIR is working to restore the floodplains that will allow the floodplains to store water longer and help restore colder temperature.  This will help reduce climate change impacts and reduce flooding impacts.  CTUIR and Umatilla County have seen the floodplain restoration benefits in the 2020 flood.  CTUIR is very pleased with EPA and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board funding that leads to a good partnership and working towards the future.”

“On behalf of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI), we wish to express our gratitude to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for awarding us the Wetland Program Development grant in the amount of $240,917. We also want to profusely thank the Honorable Jeffrey A. Merkley, United States Senator for offering a letter of support of the tribe to the EPA Tribal Wetland Program Development Grant program,” said Chief Doc Slyter of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua & Siuslaw Indians. “The purpose of this grant is to increase the tribes’ organizational capacity and enhance our outreach and collaborative efforts with stakeholders to manage, restore, and protect wetland located across the Tribe’s ancestral homelands across the southwest Oregon through development of a Wetland Program Plan. Additionally, this funding will enable the tribe to develop Wetlands Water Quality Standards (WQS) on surface waters of the Tribe’s reservation and trust lands as well as all associated riparian, wetlands, coastal beach front, and lakefront areas within the boundaries of the Tribe’s reservation and trust lands. The WQS will outline strategies to confront myriad environmental challenges that threaten the health of wetlands hence protecting fish and wildlife species and tribal cultural practices that are dependent upon Tribal Wetlands.”