WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that the Water Resources Development Act includes drought relief language to assist Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers, who have been hard-hit by drought in recent years. This language is essential for the irrigators to effectively use $10 million in drought relief funds that Merkley, Wyden and Congressman Greg Walden secured in 2018.
“Klamath Basin irrigators have been working collaboratively with the many water stakeholders, and the federal government must 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.”
“The path to a solution in the Klamath Basin starts with a firm commitment to collaboration, and today’s news marks a much-needed and positive step on that road,” Wyden said. “Farmers and ranchers in the Basin have earned this federal help by employing the same collaborative approach as all the parties who share the goal of finding a long-term answer that works to meet the region’s water challenges.”
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 returns to the Senate for final passage. Oregon Congressmen Peter DeFazio and Greg Walden helped line up House support.
The language authorizes up to $10 million a year for four years 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.