Wednesday, August 6, 2023
By: Kendall Bartley & KVAL Staff
As wildfires continue to burn statewide, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is working to bring more federal funding to the state to help reduce the wildfire risk.
The senator is planning to introduce the Wildfire Resilient Communities Act, with hopes that it will provide more money from the Community Wildfire Defense Grant Program (Community Wildfire Defense Grant Program | US Forest Service (usda.gov). Funding for that is coming from the Bi partisan Infrastructure Law.
‘We have to keep working to enable our communities to employ programs to make them more resilient and protective against fires,’ said Sen Merkley. ‘I am pushing to triple the funding for the Community Wildfire Defense Grant, so communities can reach out to that fund to do things to make their communities able to identify and respond faster to make sure people are safe or do things to harden the systems in the communities.’
He’s referring to hardening things like electrical lines, so they are less likely to create catastrophic wildfires.
The grant will also help to bring multiple resources together to host prescribed burns and treat the forest so it’s more fire resilient.
This push for funding comes as a possible government shutdown lingers. Spending legislation must pass by September 30, 2023.
Sen. Wyden says the town halls he’s hosted throughout the state revealed many issues, that a shutdown would only make worse.
He’s hopeful that Speaker of the House, Representative Kevin McCarthy will follow through with a previous deal.
“The leader of the house, he made a deal with what the level of funding would be with the President of the United States and with the leadership of the U.S. Senate,” said Se. Merkley. “He needs to stick by that deal he needs to corral his members, he needs to make sure there is no shutdown.”
While the Senate returned from recess Tuesday, the House of Representatives don’t return until the September 12, giving Congress only a few weeks to work out a deal.