Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced the Tumalo, Owyhee, East Fork, and Ochoco Irrigation District projects will be receiving critical federal funding that will help drought-stricken communities make the most of limited water supplies.
These projects—funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bill, both of which Senators Merkley and Wyden strongly supported—will combine strategies supporting efficient irrigation methods with better resource management to ensure consistent water flow to support agriculture, protect and restore wildlife habitat, and improve water quantity and quality. With climate chaos driving more frequent and more intense drought, these projects are critical to helping ensure that family farms and ranches can access the water resources they need to survive.
“Across rural Oregon, everyone feels the stress of dwindling water supplies caused by grinding drought, which is why we need smart solutions to make sure we’re using water as efficiently as possible,” said Merkley, who called USDA personally to advocate for these continued investments in Oregon. “These important projects will help conserve water, improve irrigation conditions for rural Oregon farmers, and ensure critical habitats for trout and salmon are protected. I’ll continue to do all I can to secure the federal resources needed for Oregon’s world-class agriculture sector to grow and thrive.”
“I have heard from rural communities around Oregon about their desperate need of resources to respond to the high levels of drought that are hurting agriculture and conservation efforts,” said Wyden. “I am gratified to see these important investments in water conservation work for the Owyhee, Tumalo East Fork, and Ochoco districts go toward increasing efficiency, improving biodiversity and helping farmers and ranchers better plan and prepare for droughts.”
As a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, Senator Merkley has secured over $168 million in federal funding for irrigation projects around Oregon over the past six fiscal years. These upcoming modernization projects will help establish climate resilient solutions to offset the impact of drought throughout the regions of Deschutes River, Tumalo Creek, Snake River, and Hood River watersheds. Existing open irrigation canals will be converted to pipes, which will help conserve and preserve critical water where it is needed to restore habitats for specified trout and salmon species. The implementation of water pipe conveyance will reduce evaporation and seepage loss, divert less water from rivers, and increases flow downstream.