Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the US Department of the Interior and the US Environmental Protection Agency, issued a statement on the bipartisan agreement on infrastructure, notably announcing a number of key victories for Oregon. :
âFrom the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis to the Labor Day fires and unprecedented fires of this year, 18 months have been deadly for Oregonians in every corner of our state,â Merkley said. âThere has never been a better time to invest in job-creating infrastructure projects that will help communities access clean water and other essential services; protect our families and businesses from the threat of more catastrophic forest fires; and preserve the incredible natural treasures that have long made a crucial contribution to the spirit and economy of our state. I am glad that I was able to secure provisions in this package to help us achieve each of these goals.
âBut it is clear that while this package contains valuable provisions, we still have kilometers to go. I am furious that this package breaks with decades of precedent and President Biden’s strong commitment to organized labor by failing to meet strict labor standards for new federal investments. This bill alone is a failure on the climate. It omits critical investments in other aspects of infrastructure, such as the dramatic housing shortage that working families can afford.
âThis is why it has been essential since the beginning of this conversation that the Senate act on the whole of President Biden’s agenda, not just a small piece. This bipartisan bill must be paired with an ambitious reconciliation bill that offers transformative investments in our many critical priorities. My colleagues and I in the Budget Committee have worked out a plan for such a bill, and it is imperative that the caucus reaches consensus to move the two bills together.
The arrangements Merkley secured in the bipartisan package include more than $ 50 billion in investments in water infrastructure, including lead pipe replacement and remediation efforts to remove PFAS chemicals from the water supply. potable water, and more than $ 3.5 billion for sanitation and water infrastructure projects in tribal communities. Merkley has also worked to secure $ 500 million for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program, which has been a critical source of funding for pipeline and irrigation upgrades in the Deschutes Basin to conserve water, build resilience to drought, and improve Spotted Frog habitat. , helping to keep family farms in central Oregon going. Additional funding for the program will be essential to help communities in Oregon and the western United States adapt to increasingly severe drought conditions.
Additionally, Merkley has worked to include more than $ 160 million to support environmental restoration efforts in the Klamath Basin to improve water quality and restore habitat for Shortnose, Suckers in the Lost River and Salmon; and nearly $ 80 million in funding to support restoration efforts in the Columbia River Basin, including cleanup, use reduction, and monitoring of toxic substance levels.
Merkley has helped shape substantial funding – more than $ 8 billion – for the US Forest Service and the US Department of the Interior to better prevent and respond to wildfires, and restore fire-ravaged landscapes. Of this funding, $ 2.4 billion would be allocated to efforts to reduce hazardous fuels that help reduce the risk of catastrophic forest fires; $ 2.1 billion would be spent on ecosystem restoration activities; and $ 1 billion would fund grants for communities at risk to fund forest fire mitigation activities.
To help support the firefighting workforce who have worked tirelessly to protect the people of Oregon from catastrophic wildfires and to accelerate the ecological recovery of land affected by wildfires, the funding from the US Forest Service and the US Department of the Interior would also allocate $ 650 million for rehabilitation and restoration activities dealing with land scorched by forest fires; $ 600 million would be used to increase the wages of firefighters and increase the workforce for the year; and $ 316 million would fund state grants and volunteer firefighter assistance grants. Merkley also fought to ensure that $ 250 million in funding would go to Legacy Roads and Trails projects, and $ 100 million would be made available for Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) projects. Oregon has more CFLR projects than any other state.