Thursday, June 15, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced the introduction of the Deschutes River Conservancy Reauthorization Act. This critical legislation would reauthorize the Deschutes River Conservancy’s (DRC) eligibility to receive federal funding for water quality and conservation projects—efforts critical to the restoration of wildlife and reducing agricultural runoff in Central Oregon rivers.

Founded in 1996, DRC initially focused on grazing and timber issues impacting river health, but has shifted to water management in recent years. Following its reauthorization in 2005, DRC was eligible to receive $2 million per year for the next 10 years. However, no allocations were made during this time period and the organization currently relies on private donations or funding from local government entities.

“The efforts of the Deschutes River Conservancy are critical to the quality of Oregon’s waterways, and their work goes hand-in-hand with the health of our environment,” said Merkley, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. “Reauthorizing the DRC’s ability to receive federal funding will directly impact the stability of our rivers and tributaries, and I will do everything I can to get this legislation to the President’s desk.”

“This long-proven approach to water quality and stewardship has meant significant dividends for Central Oregon’s environment and job-generating recreation economy,” Wyden said. “I’m proud to team up with Senator Merkley and the Deschutes River Conservancy on this model organization’s reauthorization, and will work hard to pass this bill into law.”

Since its creation, the DRC has helped restore 250 cubic feet per second of water to parts of the Deschutes River and surrounding tributaries. Upcoming projects will include addressing water quality issues in the Crooked River. The reauthorization would renew the DRC’s eligibility to receive funding from the Bureau of Reclamation, and funds will be matched at 50 percent.

The Deschutes River Conservancy Reauthorization Act would:

  • Provide up to $2 million in funding per year for 10 years; and
  • Amend the congressional charter to reflect changes made to the DRC’s mission and board of directors.

“We are so grateful for the work of Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden to introduce the DRC’s reauthorization legislation. DRC reauthorization would put us in a position to directly access federal funds to restore our rivers and help our communities,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Deschutes River Conservancy. “The DRC has a proven track record of bringing communities together to create on the ground results. This is just the kind of investment that will make our ecosystems and communities resilient into the future.”