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Merkley, Wyden tout spending bill items to benefit Oregon

U.S. Capitol
KTVZ file

Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have issued a series of news releases with long lists of programs in the year-end spending bill which they say will benefit Oregonians.

Here are three of those releases and lists, in full:

Merkley, Wyden Announce Increased Water Infrastructure, Tribal, Forest Funding in 2020 Spending Bill

WASHINGTON -- Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that the 2020 spending bill includes U.S. Department of Interior Appropriations funding that provides critical investments in earthquake preparedness, water infrastructure, and wildfire suppression and recovery activities that are of particular importance to communities across Oregon.

“This bill invests in both recovery and prevention efforts to save our forests, our communities, and our farms, ranches and other businesses from devastating losses,” said Merkley, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “It also secures critical resources for water infrastructure that will create jobs while improving sanitation and drinking water across Oregon. I will continue to use my seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to fight for the emergency and long-term resources communities across Oregon rely on.”

“These key resources will help Oregon communities to prepare for natural disasters, protect safe drinking water and prevent wildfires that threaten lives and businesses throughout our state,” Wyden said. “All of these investments add up to safer communities and better quality of life for Oregonians.”

Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making.

Key elements of the appropriations bill that will impact Oregon include:

Forest Health Restoration and Collaboration: The bill includes funding increases for several programs that reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires on public and private lands. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management received an additional $19 million and $5 million, respectively, for hazardous fuels reduction, bringing the total funding level to $639 million. In addition, the bill maintains funding for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program at $40 million. Oregon has three active CFLR projects: Southern Blues Restoration Coalition Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project, Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, and Lakeview Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project.

Wildfire Management: In anticipation of the next fire season, the bill includes $1.414 billion for fire suppression at the Forest Service and Department of the Interior. Fiscal year 2020 is also the first year that the bipartisan “fire borrowing fix” comes into effect, resulting in $2.25 billion of additional funds available for fire suppression and other priorities within the Interior bill.

Columbia River Basin Restoration Program: The EPA will receive $1.2 million to continue implementation of the Columbia River Basin Restoration Program. Merkley created this program, and has secured funding since fiscal year 2019 to provide grants to business owners, farmers, ranchers, local governments, and others in the Columbia Basin to clean up and reduce toxics for a cleaner, healthier basin.

Klamath Basin Water and Wildlife Conservation: In continued efforts toward a long-term solution in the Klamath Basin, the bill includes $6.5 million—a $2.5 million increase—to support strategies to restore fish habitat and scale up ongoing efforts to restore healthy populations of shortnose and Lost River sucker fish. The agreement also included $5 million habitat restoration in advance of the removal of Klamath River dams.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT): The bill includes $500 million for the PILT program to fund vital services for rural communities, including public safety, social services, transportation and housing. This funding goes to Oregon counties that have large tracts of federal land, which doesn’t pay property taxes. The investment approved by Congress is $35 million over the president’s request.

Clean Air and Water Funding: The bill protects funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). President Trump’s budget proposed cutting the agency, which is responsible for reducing pollution and safeguarding public health, by over 25 percent. Merkley organized 36 of his colleagues, including Wyden, in urging opposition to those cuts, and the Committee provided an additional $265 million for the EPA.

Water Infrastructure: Critical water infrastructure loan programs under the Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Authority (WIFIA) Act received $60 million to leverage over $11 billion in investments, such as the new projects in Hillsboro and Portland. Merkley authored the WIFIA program in 2012, working to ensure public drinking water and wastewater infrastructure are well-maintained—critical for public health and safety, strong local businesses, population growth, and clean rivers and aquifers. WIFIA was passed into law as part of the 2014 Water Resources Development Act.

Drinking Water: The bill provides $26 million for lead contamination testing at schools and child care centers, $20 million for lead reduction projects in rural areas, and $25 million for water projects in communities working to improve Safe Drinking Water Act compliance.

Tribal Programs: The Indian Health Service, which provides health care to thousands of Oregon Tribal members, received $6.047 billion, $243 million more than fiscal year 2019 and $138 million more than the President’s budget request. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education received $3.223 billion, an increase of $142 million to the fiscal year 2019 level.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): The bill provides $495 million, enough to fund all pending LWCF projects in Oregon. For over 50 years the program has been the main source of funding for federal land and water acquisitions. Acquiring and protecting public lands not only provides environmental and recreational benefits, but also creates jobs in the tourism, recreation, timber, fishing, and other natural resource sectors.

Earthquake Preparedness: The bill includes $170.8 million for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to support regional earthquake initiatives, including $19 million for ShakeAlert. The report also encourages the USGS to continue the development of a system for Cascadia that will help prepare for and mitigate the negative human and economic impacts of a major seismic event.


Merkley, Wyden Announce Major Investments in Coastal Communities, Tribes Included in Spending Bill

WASHINGTON – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced key provisions in the 2020 spending bill funding commerce, justice and science, that will help rural communities across Oregon. The bill has passed both houses of Congress and now goes to the president to be signed into law.

“I’m in every county every year, and across rural and coastal Oregon I hear about ways we can create jobs and strengthen communities,” said Merkley, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This bill reflects a lot of those insights, from strengthening the coastal infrastructure to bolstering salmon recovery efforts to more money for communities to hire police officers. I’ll keep using my seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to make sure our small towns and rural communities have a voice when these decisions are being made.”

“These federal resources will support rural Oregonians’ ability to provide for their families -- whether that’s fishing along the coast or farming hemp throughout our state,” Wyden said. “And this legislation also provides key assistance to work statewide that protects women from violence and helps tribal communities. I am proud to have teamed up to secure funds for this package of important priorities.”

Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making.

Key elements of the legislation that will impact Oregon include:

West Coast Groundfish Trawl Industry: The bill contains language that forgives $13 million in excess interest charged to Oregon’s groundfish trawl industry, caused by mismanagement of a federal loan through the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Addressing Violence Against Women: The bill contains $502 million—the highest funding level ever—for grants provided by the Office on Violence Against Women. This funding supports multiple grant programs that support training for police officers and prosecutors, state domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions, rape prevention programs, domestic violence hotlines, and women’s shelters and transitional housing support services.

Economic Development Administration (EDA): Merkley led a successful, bipartisan effort, including Wyden, to secure $319.5 million for the program, a $15.5 million increase in funding. The EDA, which was zeroed out in President Trump’s first budget, leverages existing regional assets to support economic development in rural communities.

Research Vessels: After three years of spending bills preserving construction funding for the National Science Foundation Regional Class Research Vessel Program, this year, the spending bill includes funding for the operations and maintenance of these new vessels. The vessels are being developed by Oregon State University and will greatly bolster the U.S. marine science research capacity for the next 40 years.

Salmon Management: Salmon population management programs, including the operations and maintenance of Mitchell Act hatcheries and the implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, received $56 million. The bill includes $35.5 million to support the implementation of Pacific Salmon Treaty.

Salmon Recovery: The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund received $65 million. The president’s budget proposed eliminating this vital program. The competitive grant program is designed to address declining Pacific salmon and steelhead populations by supporting conservation efforts in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

Sea Grant Program: The bill includes $74 million for the Sea Grant Program, a $6 million increase. The program, targeted for elimination in the Trump budget, is a priority for Oregon State University and uses targeted local investments to create economic growth, sustainable fisheries, and resilient coastal communities.

Coastal Zone Management: The Coastal Zone Management grants were funded at $77 million, a $1.5 million increase. The program works with Oregon and other coastal states to address some of today’s most pressing coastal issues—climate change, ocean planning, and planning for energy facilities and development. These grants help protect natural resources, improve public access, facilitate coordination between state and federal authorities, and manage hazardous areas.

Industrial Hemp: The bill includes language that directs the Drug Enforcement Administration to ensure the subsequent drug codes and scheduling guidance is updated to reflect that the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 removed hemp and its derivatives from the Controlled Substances Act. The cultivation of commercial hemp is projected to bring in more than $1 billion in economic input to Oregon this year.

Tribal Grants and Victim Assistance: Historically, the Native and tribal communities in Oregon have been disenfranchised in law enforcement, health outcomes, and victims’ rights. To address these critical issues, the committee approved a total of $77 million in grant funding for various programs, including $38 million for tribal assistance, $27 million for tribal resources, and $4 million for the Office of Violence Against Women for a special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction program.

Office of Community Policing: The bill includes $335 million for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Within that, $245 million has been set aside for COPS Hiring Grants, which help local and tribal law enforcement agencies hire additional police officers—an urgent need for many law enforcement agencies across Oregon.

Regional Information Sharing Activities: The program received $38 million to support the activities that enable the sharing of nationwide criminal information and other resources, a $1 million increase for the program that supports the Western States Information Network used by Oregon departments.


Merkley, Wyden Announce Investments in Small Ports, Irrigation Districts, Renewable Energy Included in 2020 Spending Bill

WASHINGTON – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that provisions that will help create jobs and improve infrastructure in Oregon communities are included in the 2020 spending bill that has passed both chambers of Congress, and is headed to the president’s desk to become law.

“One of the most gratifying parts of serving on the Senate Appropriations Committee is that I get to work with communities across the state to fund their needs, and then see the funding in action, benefitting Oregon’s small ports, irrigation districts, and more,” said Merkley, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This bill includes bipartisan efforts to strengthen our country in the future, such as the investment in wind energy, and supports programs that will help Oregonians in the near future, such as funding to dredge our small ports. I will continue to use my seat on this committee to push for investments that are important to Oregonians.”

“Generating jobs throughout Oregon is a common theme in these federal resources, whether it’s supporting the big role played by our state’s small ports or investing in green energy opportunities,” Wyden said. “At my annual town halls and community meetings in each of our state’s 36 counties, I hear a consistent message of working to support job creation -- which is just what this legislation accomplishes for Oregonians.”

Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making.

Key elements of the legislation that will impact Oregon include:

Water Conservation and Habitat Restoration: The WaterSmart program received a $21 million increase, to $55 million, to fund projects that will help irrigation districts comply with the Endangered Species Act. The WaterSmart program has supported the collaborative process that is underway within Central Oregon to conserve water, improve habitat for endangered steelhead and the spotted frog, and keep Central Oregon family farms in business.

Small Ports and Army Corps Navigation: The program, which is vital to help Oregon ports pay for dredging and other necessary infrastructure projects, received over $533 million for deep-draft harbor and channel improvements, $55 million for inland waterways, $40 million for navigation maintenance, and $65 million for small ports that are the lifeblood of Oregon’s coastal economy.

Expanding Renewable Energy: Merkley and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) were joined by 19 of their colleagues, including Wyden, in a bipartisan push to increase funding for wind energy power. The bill includes $104 million—a $12 million increase—for wind energy including $10 million for distributed wind. The bill also includes a $43 million increase for water power research, which will support ongoing research at OSU, and $33.5 million increase for solar power programs.

Protecting Federal Assets in Oregon: The bill prohibits the transfer or sale of power marketing assets, including the Bonneville Power Administration—a top priority for Oregonians.

Energy Efficiency Programs: In response to the Trump Administration’s proposal to restructure the popular Energy Star program, Merkley led 28 of his colleagues, including Wyden, in an effort to successfully maintain the program. The bill also includes language requiring the Department of Energy to explain why it has failed to meet deadlines for 25 energy-efficiency standards mandated by Congress. At Merkley’s request, the bill includes language directing the Department of Energy to conduct a comprehensive review of needed investments in energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy activities.

Electric Vehicle Deployment: The bill includes $40 million for the deployment of electric vehicles through the Clean Cities Program, to support cities installing more electric vehicle charging infrastructure and getting more electric vehicles on the road.

SuperTruck II: The bill includes $20 million to further improve the efficiency of heavy-duty trucks through cost-effective technologies. The program develops and deploys cutting-edge vehicle technologies, including advanced batteries and electric drive systems, to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions in the transportation sector.

Energy Storage: The bill includes secured $56 million for energy storage research and development, with a particular focus on grid-scale applications. This important funding ensures stability, reliability, resilience of the U.S. electricity grid as the country deploys and uses more renewable energy.

Scoggins Dam: Scoggins Dam received $2 million for preconstruction upgrade activities. Scoggins Dam has been classified as one of the most seismically at-risk dams that the Bureau of Reclamation manages. This classification means that failure of the dam due to a large earthquake could result in significant damages or even loss of life to communities if the dam is not upgraded.

Aquatic Invasive Species: The bill includes secured $24 million for aquatic plant control programs, including $1 million dedicated to the monitoring and control of flowering rush in the Columbia River. Additionally, $15 million shall be used for watercraft inspection stations to prevent the spread of aquatic invasives.


The Associated Press



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