July 17, 2008 - Bend Bulletin Region May See $2M In Federal Funding

July 29, 2008
July 17, 2008 - Bend Bulletin Region May See $2M In Federal Funding

Region may see $2M in federal funding
By Keith Chu / The Bulletin

Published: July 17. 2008 4:00AM PST WASHINGTON — The Deschutes River could run deeper, local energy could be greener and Central Oregon businesses might get richer, if $2 million in earmarks in three U.S. Senate spending bills released this week become law.

But the groups that stand to benefit from the money aren’t celebrating just yet. The bills need to pass the Senate and U.S. House before the funding is certain, and Democratic leaders in both chambers have said only a handful of spending measures are likely to become law this year. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters a “continuing resolution,” which usually continues funding for federal programs at current levels, is more likely than new spending bills, according to The Associated Press.

Oregon Sens. Gordon Smith, a Republican, and Ron Wyden, a Democrat, jointly submitted the earmark requests. The earmarks, which direct spending to specific projects at the request of lawmakers, include:

• $245,000 for Economic Development for Central Oregon to launch the Bend Venture Catalyst program. The earmark would fund an employee for three years to help tech firms find funding and expand their businesses, said Eric Strobel, EDCO’s business development manager.

“It would be somebody who had a lot of experience in that world, being able to usher the company through that sometimes wild process,” Strobel said.

• $400,000 to test for renewable energy potential at the former site of an Air Force radar installation in Christmas Valley. The money would pay for monitoring and research of geothermal, wind and solar power potential at the site, according to Diana Enright, assistant director for the Renewable Energy division at the Oregon Department of Energy.

• $300,000 for the Deschutes River Conservancy, probably for water conservation and water acquisition projects, said Scott McCaulou, program director for the nonprofit.

• $1,166,000 for the Deschutes Project, a Bureau of Reclamation endeavor that benefits local irrigation districts.

“I am pleased that these restoration funds will enable the Deschutes River Conservancy to continue its important work of improving river conditions in the Deschutes Basin,” Smith said in a written statement. “Funding will provide on-the-ground solutions for the water challenges facing central Oregon.”

This was the third year in a row the Oregon Department of Energy had submitted its Christmas Valley request, Enright said. The department received nearly all of its $410,000 request.

“We need to go out and find out if there really is potential out there,” Enright said.

Smith said he was pleased the earmark came through.

“Assessing the potential for renewable energy development at the Air Force’s radar site in Christmas Valley will help our state maintain its leadership in the development of clean, sustainable energy resources,” Smith said in a statement.

Keith Chu can be reached at 202-662-7456 or at kchu@bendbulletin.com.


Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2008


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