Senators announce $1 million ODOT grant for wildfire cleanup

Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced Tuesday a $1 million emergency relief grant for the Oregon Department of Transportation to support cleanup operations in the wake of destructive wildfires.

“The fires burning today reinforce how important it is to fund huge wildfires the way that we fund other natural disasters,” Merkley said. “Emergency grant funding to clean up our roads and get our communities moving again is part of that. Meanwhile, we need to continue working toward a long-term fix so we stop raiding next year’s fire prevention to fight fires today.”

“As our state continues to battle devastating wildfires, these emergency resources will provide much-needed help to Oregonians counting on our roads and highways to get around,” Wyden said. “Much work must still be done to recover and rebuild from these destructive blazes, and this grant is a good step forward on that path.”

The Oregon delegation last week wrote a letter to Secretaries Ryan Zinke and Sonny Perdue, pressing them to heed Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s request for additional fire suppression resources to address 17 large wildfires raging across the state, including two that have been designated as the highest national priority wildfire.

The delegation continues to stress the importance of better forest management to prevent these fires, minimizing their cost and damage in the first place.

The emergency relief grant, from the U.S. Department of Transportation, will be used for the repair or reconstruction of highways and roads on that have suffered serious damage as a result of natural disasters—in this case, the wildfires that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres in Oregon.

The funds are awarded to a state after the President or the Governor issues a formal emergency declaration, and the state files a request for emergency relief for its eligible highways.

Repair work includes emergency repairs needed to restore essential traffic, minimize the extent of damage, or protect remaining facilities, as well as permanent repairs necessary to restore the highway to its pre-disaster condition.