Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announce a total of $3,052,940 in federal funding is headed to three projects across the state to combat record drought conditions throughout the west, including Oregon. These federal investments are intended to safeguard local water supplies in response the extreme drought and weather events.
“Between record droughts and raging megafires, Oregon and other Western states have been hit hard over the last couple of years,” said Merkley. “These three water projects will restore habitats and riverbanks, and create resilient efficient water systems—helping stretch scarce water resources further in these challenging times. I look forward to following the progress of these important projects, and will keep working to deliver federal funding and resources needed to combat drought and ensure families and businesses can make it through these tough times.”
“Drought and devastating wildfires fueled by the climate crisis have slammed Oregon, and the need is great throughout out state to respond with urgency,” said Wyden. “These federal resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law I fought to pass will help protect critical water supplies in these Oregon communities. And I’ll keep battling to protect lives and livelihoods throughout our state with similar support that helps Oregonians weather drought’s destructive impacts.”
Funding for these projects is intended to advance quantifiable and sustained water savings by protecting watersheds impacted by wildfire, restoring aquatic habitats and stream beds, and advancing other environmental restoration projects to mitigate drought-related impacts.
Oregon projects can be found below:
Rogue Valley Council of Governments
$784,151 – Bear Creek Fish Passage Barriers Removal
East Fork Irrigation District
$2,000,000 – Oanna & Yasui Sublateral Efficiency Project
Curry Watersheds Nonprofit
$268,789 – Sixes Riverbank Restoration and Estuary Enhancement
“Funding provided by this project will address several long-standing barriers in Bear Creek that impede water flow and fish passage. These barriers have been overlooked for funding despite being identified as local priorities. It’s through programs like these that projects are able to be completed. The funding will allow for work leading to retrofitting or removing the obstacles improving fish habitat, allowing Bear Creek to flow more freely by restoring aquatic habitat and stream bed conditions, and improve overall water quality for Coho Salmon and other species that depend on Bear Creek,” said Greg Stahach, Natural, Rogue Valley Council of Governments, Resources Program Manager.
“East Fork Irrigation District, with the support of the Hood River Watershed Group, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other agencies, is working to increase instream flows in the East Fork Hood River and mainstem Hood River while at the same time improving water reliability for EFID farmers and rural residents. The WaterSmart grant for the Oanna-Yasui pipeline project will help us achieve our Irrigation Modernization Plan to improve the quality of our rivers, protect habitat for threatened salmon and steelhead, and provide reliable irrigation water for crop production,” said Steve Pappas, East Fork Irrigation District, District Manager.
“Curry Watersheds Partnership is a group of non-regulatory organizations working together to help local landowners and communities keep our shared lands and rivers healthy and sustainable. With this funding, we will be reducing severe erosion and enhancing water quality and instream habitat in the Sixes River estuary on the southern Oregon coast. Estuaries have been identified as a priority habitat by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Oregon Conservation Strategy, The Nature Conservancy, and the Oregon Independent Multi-disciplinary Science Team, due to the number of beneficial functions and services they provide both to fish and wildlife species and to the human population. Active erosion at the project site is undermining the landowner’s efforts to exclude livestock from the river and establish a riparian reserve, and consuming valuable pastureland and threatening irrigation that is integral to the property’s status as a ‘working lands’ cattle ranch. These large ranches are an asset to the local economy and agricultural community. Instream and riparian habitat enhancements will benefit a wide range of native fish species, including the federally threatened Oregon Coast population of coho salmon, Pacific lamprey, Chinook salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, winter steelhead, as well as reptiles and amphibians, birds and waterfowl, mammals, plant communities, and insects. We are thrilled for this opportunity to advance our mission of supporting our communities to care for our lands and waters, now and into the future,” said Miranda Gray, Curry Watersheds Partnership, South Coast Watershed Council Coordinator.
The funding announced is part of the $160 million in WaterSMART grants provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in 2022. This Department’s WaterSMART Program focuses on collaborative efforts to plan and implement actions to increase water supply sustainability, including investments to modernize infrastructure. Funds allocated by the BIL are intended to address water and drought challenges for the nation’s western water and power infrastructure by repairing aging water delivery systems, securing dams, completing rural water projects, protecting aquatic ecosystems and fulfilling Indian Water Rights Settlements. Local governments in states set to receive funding must complete their project within three years.