Merkley, Wyden, Bentz Push for Emergency Resources for Klamath Basin

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with Congressman Cliff Bentz (R-OR-2), today released the following statement after meeting with U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland about the dire water year the Klamath Basin will face, and the emergency resources needed to provide the community relief:

“Communities in the Basin are facing another year of hardship. As drought conditions persist and worsen, the water supply that is critical for tribal, agricultural and environmental interests will be stretched desperately thin. We know this comes on top of challenges caused by the global pandemic, unprecedented wildfires, and ongoing recovery from the impacts of previous drought years.

“We’ve been heartened as stakeholders over the years have set aside conflicts to come together and work toward solutions—and this year it will be even more important to find a community approach. We are committed to pushing hard for an emergency effort that will support community-driven efforts to provide relief for irrigators and the Klamath Tribes, and support the long-term restoration endeavors we’ve worked closely with stakeholders in the Basin to develop.

“After speaking with Secretary Haaland again today, we are assured that federal agencies and the White House are preparing to meet the water crisis with the urgency it requires, identifying immediate assistance and relief for the irrigators and tribes who will suffer economic and environmental impacts.

“We all understand that tensions are high right now, and we encourage everyone in the Basin to look to peaceful collaboration to grapple with another difficult year. It’s going to take a shared effort, from D.C. to Salem to the Basin, to support collaborative community efforts, help all stakeholders get to the other side of this water year, and continue to advance the long-term work to address ongoing water resource challenges.”

The latest push for relief 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; Merkley and Wyden have helped fund programs to support local water quality projects that came out of Merkley’s first-ever Sucker Recovery Summit; and since 2014, when Merkley joined the Appropriations Committee, more than $33 million has supported restoration projects by Klamath Tribes and irrigators in the Basin.