Merkley, Wyden, Bentz Announce $10 Million in Additional Funding for Klamath Drought Relief

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Congressman Cliff Bentz, today announced that $10 million in additional federal funding is headed to the Klamath Basin to help with drought relief and resiliency.

This funding from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation adds to the $33 million that the lawmakers secured earlier this year for water users—including irrigators, Klamath Tribes, and wetlands—in the Klamath Basin.

“This has been an extremely difficult water year, and every bit of assistance helps,” said Merkley, who has used his position as Chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to ensure increased funding for drought relief and habitat restoration efforts in the Klamath Basin. “As this historic drought continues, I will continue to fight for the Klamath Basin’s needs at the federal level, and will continue to work collaboratively with local leaders, state partners, and Tribes to implement a long-term strategy to tackle this crisis.”

“This $10 million in additional federal aid for the Klamath Basin is welcome news after another challenging year extended the long drought slamming farmers and the Klamath Tribes,” Wyden said. “I’m glad to have worked on a bipartisan basis to secure these resources, on top of the funds from earlier this year. It’s that same teamwork that I’m using to keep working on the short-term and long-term assistance the Klamath Basin needs to weather this crisis.”

“Although this money does not replace water needed for the community, farmers, fish and tribes, it certainly is welcome,” Bentz said. I join the people of the Klamath Basin in thanking our Senators for their efforts in obtaining this $10 million grant.”

“A shortage of irrigation water next year could mean the end for a lot of farm families who have done nothing wrong. We are very grateful to Senators Merkley and Wyden for pushing for this funding; we can plan for the worst case even as we work to let farmers farm,” said Paul Simmons, Executive Director of Klamath Water Users Association.

As Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Merkley was able to secure $162 million to support habitat restoration and fish recovery efforts in the Klamath Basin over the next five years in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Merkley also secured $500 million for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program, which will support irrigation modernization in the Klamath Basin and across the West.   

The relief funding follows a long history of support for the Klamath Basin through drought years that are becoming increasingly common: Merkley, with Wyden and former Congressman Greg Walden, fixed language in legislation to allow irrigators to access $10 million in drought relief; Using his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee and now as Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Merkley have helped fund programs to support local water quality projects that came out of Merkley’s first-ever Sucker Recovery Summit. So far, $33 million has supported restoration projects by Klamath Tribes and farmers and ranchers in the Basin as a result of Senator Merkley’s efforts.