Merkley, Wyden Announce Key Funding for Oregon’s Coastal Communities, Renewable Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Ron Wyden today announced key provisions in the Energy and Water 2019 spending bill that will help Oregon’s coastal communities and will advance innovation in clean, renewable energy. The bill passed the full Senate on Wednesday.

“Fighting for Oregon’s priorities is my top responsibility as a member of the Appropriations Committee,” Merkley said. “From preventing the sale of Bonneville Power Administration and other public assets, to investing in innovative renewable energy like solar and wave, to supporting the coast’s small ports, this bill contains provisions that improve Oregon’s economies, quality of life, and future.”

“This bill benefits Oregonians statewide because it devotes significant resources to key objectives such as small ports along the coast, green energy sources, electric vehicle deployment and vital infrastructure,” Wyden said. “I’m also gratified that this legislation protects ratepayers throughout the Northwest by rejecting any misguided scheme to privatize the Bonneville Power Administration.” 

Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making.

Key elements of the legislation that will impact Oregon include:

Protecting Key Federal Assets in Oregon: For a second consecutive year, the bill does not transfer or sell power marketing assets, including the Bonneville Power Administration — a top priority for Oregonians. The bill also prohibits the closure of Oregon’s Albany National Energy Technology Lab facility, maintaining a critical economic driver.

Small Ports and Army Corps Navigation: These programs, which Oregon ports rely on to help pay for dredging and other necessary infrastructure projects, received over $600 million, including $40 million for inland waterways, $24 million for navigation maintenance, and $54 million for small ports, which are the lifeblood of Oregon’s coastal economy.

Water Conservation and Habitat Restoration: The WaterSmart program received $34 million to fund projects that will help irrigation districts comply with the Endangered Species Act and that support collaborative approaches and reduce conflict, including litigation. The WaterSmart program could support the collaborative process that is underway within Central Oregon to conserve water, improve habitat for endangered steelhead and the spotted frog, and keep Central Oregon family farms in business.

Tribal Housing: The bill maintains language acknowledging the Army Corps’ mission, and instructing the Corps to uphold its responsibility to tribes that were displaced by the construction of the Dalles Dam on the Columbia River, and to mitigate the impact of that displacement. Merkley, along with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Oregon colleagues in both the Senate and House, have been fighting to address the urgent need for adequate housing along the Columbia River.

Community Solar: The Department of Energy’s National Community Solar Partnership received $5 million to restart the program to expand solar energy access to new markets and communities.

Wave Energy Research and Development: The bill provides at least $5 million for the Oregon State University Wave Energy Test Facility, which will be the first in-water, grid-connected wave energy test facility in the country—advancing technology that has the potential to provide long-term, clean energy.

Electric Vehicle Deployment: The Clean Cities program received $37.8 million to help cities install more electric vehicle charging infrastructure and get more electric vehicles on the road.

Willamette Locks: A final disposition study on the Willamette Falls Navigation Canal and Locks in Clackamas County is well under way, but needs additional funds to be completed. Language was included in the bill to allow in-process Disposition of Completed Projects studies to receive funding, including Willamette Locks.

Scoggins Dam: Scoggins Dam received $2 million for upgrades. The dam has been classified as one of the most seismically at-risk dams that the Bureau of Reclamation manages. This classification means that failure of the dam due to a large earthquake could result in significant damages or even loss of life to communities if the dam is not upgraded. The bill maintains language urging the Bureau of Reclamation to consider other benefits like increased water supply in addition to public safety.

SuperTruck II: The bill provides $20 million for five awards to further improve the efficiency of heavy-duty trucks through cost-effective technologies. The program develops and deploys cutting-edge vehicle technologies, including advanced batteries and electric drive systems, to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions in the transportation sector.

Energy Storage: The bill provides $46 million for energy storage research and development. This important funding ensures greater stability, reliability, and resilience of the U.S. electricity grid as the country deploys and integrates more renewable energy.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on an identical bill by the end of the week, at which point the final bill will be sent to the president to be signed into law.