Funding to Benefit Oregon’s Rivers and Farmers Moving Through Legislation

December 11, 2020
Funding to Benefit Oregon’s Rivers and Farmers  Moving Through Legislation

Federal funding is coming to Oregon for streamflow and habitat restoration as well as water efficiency projects for local irrigation districts thanks to tireless work from Senator Merkley. This request is in the current Senate appropriations bill and Senator Merkley will be championing these programs as the bill moves through the legislative process.

“The Deschutes River Conservancy commends Senator Merkley in his continued efforts to secure critical federal funding to restore streamflows and solve water issues in our community,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, current DRC Operations Director and incoming Executive Director. “We look forward to the support of all of our federal legislators as this appropriations bill works its way through Congress.”

The $30 million set aside for projects in Oregon will be funded through the Public Law 566, or the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act. Local irrigation districts will use some of this funding to improve water efficiency and conservation to mitigate their impact on the Deschutes Basin aquatic ecosystems.

“Irrigation modernization is good for the environment, water conservation, job creation, and helping our farmers and ranchers—a win on so many levels,” said Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. “As the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations agriculture subcommittee, I’ve fought to fund a program in the Agriculture Appropriations bill that has enabled Oregon to lead the way on irrigation modernization. If passed, this year’s bipartisan bill will mean an additional $30 million for Oregon irrigation modernization projects. That totals $135 million for our projects, including three in Central Oregon, since 2017.”

Additionally, the committee approved $55 million for the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program, much higher than President Trump’s original request of $8 million. The WaterSMART program provides competitive grant funding that DRC and basin partners use to fund a variety of water projects in Central Oregon, including water conservation projects that restore streamflows, the development of a water marketing strategy for the basin, and funds to support collaborative water planning processes such as the Deschutes Basin Water Collaborative.

Photography by Arian Stevens

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