Merkley, Wyden, Walden Announce Official Signing of Critical Fix to Help Klamath Irrigators

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Representative Greg Walden (R-OR-2), today announced that a critically needed fix to the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)—which will provide relief to Klamath Basin irrigators who have been hard-hit by drought—has been signed into law.

“Between this year’s unprecedented wildfires, a severe drought, and the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis—this has been a difficult time for the Klamath Basin,” Merkley said. “But through it all, irrigators have consistently come together to work collaboratively with one another to make headway with longstanding water challenges that have only become more complicated during this particularly difficult season. I’m pleased that this correction will allow farmers to swiftly access much-needed resources, so we can continue working toward long-term solutions to support the region’s water needs for generations to come.”

“Oregonians don’t shrink from challenges – we work together to find solutions that work for everybody,” Wyden said. “That Oregon Way approach guided this legislation freeing up resources for Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers to take a good step forward in this tough year of drought, wildfires and the coronavirus’ economic fallout toward a long-term resolution to longstanding water supply challenges.”

“This is welcome news for irrigators in the Klamath Basin, who are enduring another drought-stricken year, unprecedented wildfires, and the COVID-19 pandemic all at the same time,” Walden said. “This legislation will ensure they have the tools they need to get through these hard times as well as prepare irrigators in the Klamath Basin if they are hit with severe drought in the years ahead. I want to thank President Trump for swiftly signing this bill into law and taking care of the hardworking farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin.”

Merkley used his seat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to include the language in the Senate’s Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) reauthorization. With WRDA stalled, Merkley pivoted and introduced the language with Wyden as a stand-alone bill, which was passed by the Senate in July. Walden introduced companion legislation in the House, which passed in October.

The original language authorized up to $10 million a year 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. This technical correction clarifies the authority for irrigators to access the funds for strategies such as land idling and groundwater pumping in times of drought.