Merkley, Wyden Announce Vital Funding for Oregon Forest Health, Environmental Improvements, and Water Infrastructure on Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announce critical funding that will help make Oregon’s forests more resilient, support rural communities, protect public lands and the environment, bolster important programs for tribes, and more. The victories for Oregon are in the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations portion of Congress’s omnibus spending bill, which is expected to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law by President Biden this week.

As the Chair of the Senate Interior Appropriations subcommittee, Merkley led the drafting of this portion of the bill, and fought to ensure that Oregon’s priorities were included.

“I got on the Appropriations Committee so I can turn the input I get from Oregonians into solutions here at home, and this bill has Oregon written all over it,” Merkley said. “We’re dramatically increasing resources for wildfire prevention and creating brand new grants to help communities deal with wildfire smoke. We’re creating $100 million in new grants for environmental justice to help communities of color and low-income neighborhoods hit hardest by pollution. We’re pushing resources to Tribes and rural communities to fix water systems at risk of failing, and so much more. We all want clean air and water, healthy forests and ecosystems, and infrastructure that will be there for the next generation, and that’s what this bipartisan bill delivers.”

“These federal resources directly respond to concerns Oregonians have shared with me in my town halls, in grocery store aisles and Main Street walks across the state,” Wyden said. “This bipartisan bill represents the best of the ‘Oregon Way’ because it focuses on helping Oregonians statewide solve serious challenges — wildfires ripping through our towns, the climate crisis and its record heat and drought, the need to help both rural and Tribal communities with clean water and more. I’m proud to have teamed up with so many Oregonians whose many good ideas paved the path for this success.”

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.

The Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill includes funding to support wildfire management, following another year of unprecedented blazes, as well as providing funding to support efforts to address the water crisis in the Klamath Basin:

Forest Health Restoration and Collaboration: The bill provides $28 million for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program (CFLR), doubling the program compared to the enacted level. With this level of funding, the U.S. Forest Service will be able to extend all the existing CFLR projects, fund a new CFLR on the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.  It also allows new projects to compete for additional funds, critical for Oregon which would otherwise not be eligible. Oregon has four active CFLR projects: Northern Blues Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, Southern Blues Restoration Coalition Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project, Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, and Lakeview Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project.

Wildfire Management: In anticipation of the next fire season, the bill provides $3.8 billion in funding for wildfire suppression accounts at land management agencies.  To reduce wildfire risk, the bill provides $414 million, a $14 million increase, for hazardous fuels reduction projects. The bill also includes language directing the Bureau of Land Management to expand the level of protection covered through the Western Oregon Operating Plan.

Klamath Basin Water and Wildlife Conservation: In continued efforts toward a long-term solution in the Klamath Basin, Merkley provided almost $14 million for habitat restoration and monitoring efforts in the Klamath Basin, a $3 million increase compared to last year.

Environmental Justice: This agreement provides $100 million for EPA’s Environmental Justice program, a historic increase from the $12 million included in last year’s bill. These resources will fund external grants for community-led initiatives as well as dramatically expand EPA’s ability to engage directly with communities to ensure they have a voice in EPA decision-making and have access to EPA programs, grants, and technical assistance to address environmental and public health challenges.

Climate Chaos: The bill includes more than $420 million for EPA clean air programs to tackle the existential threat of climate chaos and address the continuing burden of air pollution on communities across the country.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT): The bill includes $515 million for the PILT program to fund vital services for rural communities, including public safety, social services, transportation and housing. This funding goes to Oregon counties that have large tracts of federal land.

Wildfire Smoke Mitigation: The bill provides $4 million to establish a new grant program at EPA to support local efforts to prepare for and protect against wildfire smoke hazards, for example by developing smoke mitigation and filtration plans for schools and community buildings.

Water Infrastructure: Critical water infrastructure loan programs under the Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Authority (WIFIA) Act received $69.5 million to leverage $5.9 billion in investments, such as those underway in Hillsboro, Portland and Gresham. Merkley authored the WIFIA program in 2012, working to ensure public drinking water and wastewater infrastructure are well-maintained to support public health and safety, strong local businesses, population growth, and clean rivers and aquifers. WIFIA was passed into law as part of the 2014 Water Resources Development Act. In total, the bill includes well over $2.7 billion in loans and grants to support water infrastructure projects.

Wood Innovation Grants (WIG): The bill provides $20 million, a historic funding level, for the WIG program to help encourage the growth of the mass timber economy in Oregon and to find markets to encourage the removal of hazardous fuels from our forests.

Columbia River Treaty Fishing Access Sites: The bill provides, for the first time, $1.7 million for operation and maintenance at the treaty fishing and in-lieu sites along the Columbia River.

Saline Lakes: The bill provides $1.25 million to establish a U.S. Geological Survey water monitoring assessment effort for saline lakes in the Great Basin, like Lake Abert.

Tribal Programs: The bill provides $10 billion for Tribal programs—a significant increase from last fiscal year. The funding includes $6.6 billion for IHS, an increase of approx. $400 million; and $3.4 billion for Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education programs, an increase of roughly $300 million.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): The bill provides $900 million, as required by the Great American Outdoors Act. For over 50 years the program has been the main source of funding for federal land and water acquisitions. Acquiring and protecting public lands not only provides environmental and recreational benefits, but also creates jobs in the tourism, recreation, timber, fishing, and other natural resource sectors.

Earthquake Preparedness: The bill includes $90 million for the U.S. Geological Survey to support regional earthquake initiatives, including $28.6 million for the West Coast ShakeAlert early warning project. The bill also encourages the USGS to continue the development of a system for Cascadia that will help prepare for and mitigate the negative human and economic impacts of a major seismic event.

Racial Justice and Voting Rights: The bill includes $10 million to construct a voting rights center at the Selma Interpretive Center to honor the legacy of civil rights leaders, including the late Representative John Lewis. 

In addition to the funding allotments above, Merkley wrote into the bill federal funding for specific conservation, water infrastructure, and other projects throughout Oregon. Those funds and projects, which were also advocated for by Senator Ron Wyden, include:

  • $200,000 for the Fish and Wildlife Service for the project Upper Wallowa River Restoration, Partnership with Wallowa Resources  
  • $500,000 for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians for the project Ghii Dee-Ne Dvn Cultural Center, Collections and Cultural Preservation, Historic Preservation Fund
  • $336,000 for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs for the project Museum at Warm Springs, Collections and Cultural Preservation, Historic Preservation Fund
  • $800,000 for University of Oregon for a project at the Center for Wildfire Smoke Research and Practice
  • $1 million for the City of Dufur for its Wastewater Treatment Expansion Project
  • $450,000 for the City of Echo for its project on Potable Water System Service Replacement
  • $1.015 million for the City of Haines for its Supply and Distribution Project
  • $575,000 for the City of Hood River for its Phase IV Waterfront Stormwater Line Relocation
  • $500,000 for the City of Newberg for a project on the Emergency Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • $1.5 million for the City of Prineville for its Water and Wastewater Services Extension
  • $1 million for the City of Sandy for its Sewer Pipe Improvements  
  • $1 million for the City of Warrenton for its Hammond Waterline Project
  • $2 million for the City of Willamina for its project on Water Intake Repair
  • $192,000 for the City of Yamhill for its Treatment Plant Project
  • $1.5 million for the City of Albany for its project on Composting System Expansion at the Albany-Millsburg Water Reclamation       
  • $555,000 for North Unit Irrigation District for its project on Jefferson County Main Canal Lining Project
  • $5 million for Rogue River Valley and Medford Irrigation District for its project on Joint System Piping, Phase 1
  • $800,000 for Mapleton Water District for its Distribution and Meter Project
  • $1.340 million for City of North Bend for its project on Storm and Sanitary Infrastructure Replacement and Upgrades
  • $1.958 million for Port of Toledo for its Sewer Connection Expansion Project
  • $2 million for Klamath County for its project on Upper Klamath Lake Water Reuse Equipment
  • $864,000 for Sustainable Northwest for its project on building Nursery and Recovery Infrastructure for Climate and Fire Resilient Oregon Forests
  • $500,000 for The Nature Conservancy for its Equitable and Just Canopy Cover Greater Portland Area Project
  • $500,000 for Lomakatsi Restoration Project for its Jacksonville Community Wildfire Protection Project
  • $2 million for the State of Oregon for its Opal Creek Wilderness Economic Development Project
  • $500,000 for the Oregon Department of Forestry for its project on Oregon Statewide Fire Detection Cameras
  • $500,000 for the Long Tom Watershed Council for its project on Willamette Valley Prescribed Fire Capacity
  • $915,000 for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs for its project on Dry Creek Landfill Compliance Improvements
  • $3.5 million for the Port of Brookings Harbor for their Wastewater Treatment Plant, with Chairman DeFazio
  • $125,000 for the McKenzie River Trust for Floodplain Restoration Project, with Chairman DeFazio
  • $200,000 for the Willamalane Parks and Recreation District for a fuels reduction project, with Chairman DeFazio.

“In short, this funding will allow the City of Newberg to be better prepared in the event of an emergency,” said City of Newberg Mayor, Rick Rogers. “We cannot thank Senator Merkley enough for his efforts on behalf of the residents of our community.”

“This is great news for our Yamhill community!” said Yamhill Mayor, Yvette Potter. “The citizens of the City of Yamhill were diligent and dedicated to conserving water this summer during the declared State of Emergency Water Restrictions. This generous funding opportunity will support improvements to the aging water treatment plant and increase the water intake levels to better meet water capacity for the City. The City of Yamhill is very grateful to Senator Merkley and the Senate Appropriations Sub Committee for remembering the big needs of small-town communities.”

“We are very encouraged that the recently released Senate Interior Appropriations Bill contains significant funding for the Klamath Basin that will be directed toward addressing fisheries and aquatic resource needs,” said Donald C. Gentry, Chairman of the Klamath Tribes. “We greatly appreciate Senator Merkley, Senator Wyden and their staffs for their work to secure funding needed to address resource problems affecting the Klamath Tribes Treaty resources and Klamath Basin communities.”

“We appreciate Senator Merkley’s and Senator Wyden’s critical support,” said Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris. “Ten to 12 percent of Klamath County’s GDP and an estimated $300 million in annual sales are generated by our farmers and ranchers. After a drought year like this one, we all have to work together to do absolutely everything we can to increase the resilience of our region’s water supply. With this investment, we can have a serious and beneficial impact on our community’s way of life.”

“We appreciate Senators Merkley and Wyden’s advocacy for the Upper Wallowa River Restoration Project. This project will generate significant, long-term benefits to native fish, including bull trout and kokanee, and address long-standing flood risks to the Wallowa Lake State Park and adjacent private lands. It will also benefit the anticipated reintroduction of sockeye in the Wallowa River,” said Nils D. Christoffersen, Executive Director of Wallowa Resources. “Given the popularity of this State Park, this river restoration presents rich educational opportunities both for the local community and visitors to the area. We’re excited to see the value of this project recognized and supported.”

“This is a great example of teamwork at every level of government coming together to solve a regional infrastructure problem,” said Hood River Mayor Kate McBride. “The City’s failing waterfront stormwater line, built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960s, was threatening local businesses and a world-class recreation site.  This federal appropriation is the capstone to a combination of state, federal, and local dollars that came together to fix this regional asset. We thank Senator Merkley for his work on behalf of Hood River.”

“The City of Prineville is very appreciative of this funding that will help us serve disadvantaged portions of our community and address human health and safety concerns through the extension of basic services,” said Eric Klann, City of Prineville Public Works Director.

“The news of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee approving $555,000 for NUID’s Main Canal Lining Project is terrific news!” said Mike Britton, Executive Manager of North Unit Irrigation District. “Like many, NUID struggled through its most difficult water year in its 76 year history.  Through Senator Merkley’s support, this funding and subsequent project will help stretch NUID’s limited water supplies even further during these difficult drought years and well into the future.”

“Sustainable Northwest expresses our profound appreciation to Senators Merkley and Wyden for their leadership in supporting wildfire recovery,” said Kaola Swanson, Sustainable Northwest Forest Program Director. “This critical investment will help small family forest owners who are struggling to recover from the destructive Labor Day fires of 2020. By replanting diverse and climate-resilient species, we will grow sustainably-managed forests that support communities, economies, and the ecosystems we depend on.”

“This bill includes many important investments to help us urgently address the pressing biodiversity and climate crises,” said Dr. William Johnson, president of Portland-based Moda Health and trustee of The Nature Conservancy in Oregon. “We are especially grateful to Senators Merkley and Wyden for prioritizing the study and mitigation of the urban heat island effect in the Greater Portland area, particularly in our neighborhoods with lesser tree canopy, higher exposure to extreme heat and poor air quality. This commitment will dramatically enhance the health of chronically underserved BIPOC and marginalized communities who have experienced persistent environmental inequities for so long.”

“Lomakatsi Restoration Project is grateful for Senator Merkley’s and Senator Wyden’s leadership in securing much-needed support for proactive community wildfire protection in some of the highest-risk areas in Oregon,” said Marko Bey, Executive Director, Lomakatsi Restoration Project. “Funding allocated under this bill will allow us to do more ecological fuels reduction around the historic community of Jacksonville, while supporting local jobs and workforce development opportunities. These efforts are part of the larger West Bear All-Lands Restoration Project, focused on improving community wildfire safety in the wildland urban interface adjacent to Talent, Phoenix south Medford and Jacksonville—an area that is still recovering from the 2020 Almeda Fire.”

“The City of Willamina is facing the loss of its water supply system,” said Willamina Mayor Robert ‘Bob’ Burr. “Without this project funded by these monies the City risks being unable to provide water to its community members, its fire district, its schools, and its businesses.  We are thankful for Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden and their strong support for our project. Through their support and these funds, we can provide a future for our children, our families, and our community!”

“The Klamath River Basin is one of the most important watersheds in the West, for native fishes, for agriculture, and for indigenous peoples,” said Chrysten Rivard, Oregon Director for Trout Unlimited. “But in recent years these communities have been hard hit by drought and other impacts of the warming climate. We know what can and must be done to sustain the economy as well as the rich natural and cultural heritage of this unique basin—we just need to do more of it, faster. Senator Merkley’s and Senator Wyden’s leadership to secure this new funding is a clear demonstration of their longstanding commitment to address the critical needs for the Klamath Basin’s fish and people. These investments are vital to scaling up our watershed restoration efforts, which will improve landscape resilience to climate change, support local economies, and help realize a brighter future for all of the Klamath’s communities and wildlife.”

“On behalf of the Rogue River Valley and Medford Irrigation Districts, I want to give my profound thanks to Senator Merkley, Senator Wyden and their staffs,” said Brian Hampson, Manager of the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District. “Piping the Joint System Canal will help extend the irrigation season for our farmers while putting water back in Little Butte Creek to support endangered coho salmon and other fish. With this funding, and through our work with stakeholders like the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District, Rogue River Watershed Council, and Trout Unlimited, we will be able to get started on piping and integrate on-farm work that can provide additional water quality benefits in the creek.”

“The forests, prairies, and savannas of the Willamette Valley that are now home to millions of Oregonians were shaped by Indigenous people using good fire for tens of thousands of years,” said Clinton Begley, Executive Director of Long Tom Watershed Council. “Today, in the absence of that culturally relevant burning and in the presence of a changing climate, it is the people here whose lives are increasingly shaped by fires that are beyond our control. We are grateful for Senator Merkley’s bold support to increase good fire on the landscape and in-turn the Willamette Valley’s first stewards. With this funding a coalition of Tribal and non-Tribal partners will be able to: nurture existing partnerships, engage the public on this important issue, buy necessary equipment, train personnel, and create green jobs to scale up the use of good fire. We are excited to put this funding to work for a more equitable, climate-resilient, future for all the human and non-human communities who call this valley home.”

“The City of Haines would like to express our appreciation for being considered for funding from Congressional Directed Spending,” said Valerie Russell, City Recorder for the City of Haines. “The city has been working for several years to update the antiquated water system which includes some components that date back to 1910. The city has been completing the project in phases as funding becomes available. If Haines receives these funds, it will bring the project close to completion without incurring catastrophic debt which would result in rate increases that the community cannot afford. Thank you, Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden, from the City of Haines.”

“The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are extremely grateful for Sen. Merkley and Sen. Wyden securing critical federal funds to help achieve clean water needs on the reservation,” said Raymon Tsumpti, Chairman of the Tribal Council. “Their work will start turning around the water crisis we are facing.”

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of The Museum at Warm Springs, we are immensely grateful to receive funding from the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees,” said Elizabeth A. Woody (Warm Springs, Yakama and Navajo), Executive Director of The Museum at Warm Springs. “This support helps to protect and enhance the Museum’s infrastructure while providing for the preservation and ongoing care of our priceless tribal artifacts. We welcome all Americans to experience and learn from the arts, history, heritage and cultural assets of the Warm Springs Confederated Tribes of Oregon.”

“The University of Oregon applauds Senator Merkley’s and Senator Wyden’s leadership in bringing national attention to Oregon’s need for resources to address smoke and wildfire,” said Cassandra Moseley, Vice President for Research & Innovation (interim). “We take pride whenever UO faculty and students are engaged directly in actionable research that accelerates community access to best practices. A Center for Wildfire Smoke Research and Practice will help address the urgent need for Oregon communities to be better prepared for wildfire smoke events and to protect the most vulnerable populations.”

“This is such great news and we are so grateful for the support from Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden. Both of these Senators have taken time out of their busy schedules to actually talk with myself and our Mayor Chad Ray,” said David Slaght, Echo City Administrator. “Senator Merkley has made time for Echo on more than one occasion to allow us to specifically address our infrastructure needs for the community. Receiving the news that our water meter project has made it out of a national committee and will actually be attached to a federal funding bill is incredible. The City of Echo and all of the residents will benefit from this and it will get us one step closer to accomplishing our goal of updating our aging infrastructure and keeping utility rates from going up too much. On behalf of our little city, we thank you for the continued support!”