Merkley, Wyden, Walden Deliver Resources to Address Klamath Water Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with Representative Greg Walden (R-OR 2), today announced that resources for Klamath-area irrigators and tribes are included in the 2018 spending bill, providing some resources to help communities cope with imminent drought and ongoing water challenges.

“As we look ahead to a difficult summer of drought, I know that the Klamath community is doing the hard work on the ground to build a better future,” Merkley said. “The resources in this bill will help Klamath families through the summer, as well as support long-term planning and habitat restoration . I greatly appreciate the tremendous work Congressman Walden did on the House side to achieve this result. I will continue to do everything I can to assist the Klamath community through these challenging times.”

“I heard a clear commitment at my recent Klamath County town hall and in conversations throughout the Klamath Basin from the tribes, ranchers, farmers, small businesses, fishing families and conservationists to developing water solutions that help everybody,” Wyden said. “A big part of building on that urgent need for common ground in the face of a dire drought forecast is ensuring these short-term and long-term resources are available. This is an important continuation of an ongoing effort to bring certainty to the Basin.”

“This plan will provide immediate drought relief for irrigators in the Klamath Basin, helping our farmers survive this challenging water year,” Walden said. “I have been working with my Oregon colleagues in the Senate, as well as the Trump Administration, to secure this vital funding and ensure it will be available to help with groundwater pumping and other priorities for water users in the Basin. This addition to funding will ensure the Bureau of Reclamation has the ability to implement these measures as they navigate the current water year. While this short-term help is important and needed, we still need a long term solution that provides certainty for farmers, ranchers, tribes and fish in the Basin. I look forward to continue working with the local community, my Oregon colleagues in Congress, and the Administration to accomplish that.”

The 2018 spending bill released yesterday includes a reauthorization of the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act, which is expected to give the Bureau of Reclamation the flexibility this summer to help water users within the Klamath Reclamation Project.

Oregon’s delegation has been working behind the scenes in a bipartisan, bicameral effort to lobby Minority Leader Schumer and Speaker Ryan to secure additional funding in the omnibus bill to help the Klamath Basin this summer. In addition, Merkley and Walden have weighed in directly with Bureau of Reclamation leadership and with Speaker Ryan and Leader Schumer to ensure funding reaches the Klamath Basin to cope with drought this summer.

The delegation also successfully preserved $3 million to continue advancing habitat restoration in the Upper Basin. The funding supports U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s fisheries restoration efforts and the Klamath Tribes’ technical capacity for planning for conservation and habitat restoration.