Merkley, Wyden Announce Job Creation Wins for Oregon in Water Resources Development Act Reauthorization

Washington, DC – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) was passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee and includes key job creation and funding opportunities for Oregon communities. In particular, the Senators highlighted a three-year extension in the small ports set-aside in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for small ports in Oregon and increased authorization for funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) that Senator Merkley has championed to help local communities finance safe drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects.   

“This bill not only puts Oregonians to work dredging ports, replacing sewer lines, and ensuring the safety of our drinking water,” said Merkley, “it’s also an investment in our future and will create new opportunities for businesses and our economy to grow.”

“Helping restore critical salmon and wildlife habitats and ensuring small ports have resources for dredging and jetty repair creates good-paying Oregon jobs. The Senate took a critical step forward today by advancing this bill to allow important water infrastructure projects in Oregon and across the country to move forward,” Wyden said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure the Water Resources Development Act gets to the President’s desk.”

Senators Merkley and Wyden have consistently fought in the Senate to make sure that the HMTF is used for its intended purpose of maintaining ports and that small ports in America receive a share of this funding. For small coastal communities in Oregon, access to funding for dredging is crucial to the economy. As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Merkley was able to pass a 10% set-aside for small ports in 2014; however, the set-aside was scheduled to expire in 2022. The legislation passed out of committee today adds a three year extension so that the 10% set-aside will remain in place through 2025. 

The bill passed out of committee today also has the ability to leverage over $700 million in low-interest WIFIA loans for communities to finance safe drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects.

In almost every town hall meeting that Senators Merkley and Wyden hold, in every corner of Oregon, they hear about the challenges that local communities are having finding funding to replace or upgrade aging water infrastructure. Clean drinking water and modern wastewater treatment systems are critical for public health and safety, strong local businesses, population growth, and clean rivers and aquifers. Incidents like the recent crisis in Flint, Michigan underscore the dangers that can result when the safety of our drinking water and state of our water infrastructure are not made a priority. In the committee hearing, Senator Merkley also underscored the need to ensure our infrastructure projects use materials that are made in America in order to help support local jobs, manufacturing, and economies. 

Additional provisions included in today’s legislation that will deliver benefits to Oregon communities include: 

  • Providing Oregonians better access to the Giles French Park in Arlington, Oregon, by allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to let a non-Federal government entity collect users fees for recreation sites and facilities. 
  • Giving the Port of Cascade Locks greater economic development opportunities along its waterfront by clarifying an out-of-date easement. 
  • Providing authorization to the Army Corps of Engineers to build suitable housing for 41-49 tribal homes displaced by the Bonneville Dam. Additionally, the legislation authorizes a study to determine how many people were displaced by the John Day Dam and identify a plan for suitable housing to replace what was lost. 
  • Expanding water craft inspection stations to cover the entire Columbia River Basin to protect our lakes and waterways from invasive species, such as the zebra mussel.