WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced final passage of the Water Resources Development Act, which includes drought relief language to assist Klamath Basin farmers who have been hard-hit by drought in recent years. The language is essential for the irrigators to effectively use $10 million in drought relief funds that the lawmakers secured in 2018.
“Through drought, wildfires, and other extreme challenges, Klamath Basin irrigators have shown they’re committed to working collaboratively with the many water stakeholders, and it is imperative that the federal government step up and do all it can to assist,” Merkley said. “This authorization will allow stakeholders to access much-needed resources as they work to address water supply challenges in the region.”
“This legislation marks a significant win for farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin,” Wyden said. “I am committed to building on this progress and ensuring the federal government continues to be a helpful partner for everybody committed to a long-term solution to meet the region’s water challenges.”
“So many people worked for over a decade to solve the longstanding issues that plague the Klamath Basin with nothing to show for it,” said Scott White, Executive Director of the Klamath Water Users Association. “We are extremely grateful to Senators Merkley and Wyden for their tireless efforts in championing this legislation that has roots in those efforts. It is rewarding to know that we have not been forgotten and we remain ready to continue working with our congressional delegation and our neighbors in seeking a comprehensive, long-term solution for all stakeholders.”
Merkley used his seat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to include the language in the Senate’s Water Resources Development bill. House and Senate negotiators agreed to add the language passed by the Senate to a final bill slated to be taken up by the House before it returned to the Senate for final passage. The next step for the bill is to be signed into law by the president.
The language authorizes up to $10 million a year for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to work with the farming and ranching community to develop and implement strategies to align water demand with available supply. It also authorizes the Bureau to develop a plan to provide reduced-cost power for irrigation, with a preference for efficiency, conservation, and local renewable energy projects, including hydropower.