PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development announced Tuesday it is investing $1 million to restore potable water to the rural town of Detroit after its treatment plant was destroyed in last September's destructive wildfire.
"Access to safe drinking water is essential for residents to be able to return to this rural community and begin rebuilding after the devastating wildfires of 2020," Rural Development Acting State Director Jill Rees said. "This grant will help the community create an interim solution that will provide potable water for residents while the town pursues a long-term solution."
The small town of Detroit, located along the North Santiam Highway east of Salem, was substantially impacted by the Santiam Fire in the fall of 2020. Its water treatment plant was destroyed, and much of the watershed that provides the town's drinking water was burned, requiring high-grade filters to produce potable water.
With a $1 million Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant from USDA, Detroit will build a temporary ultrafiltration packaged plant and renovate the reservoir to house it. This funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.
The project will enable this rural town of 202 people to begin rebuilding their community and recovering from the catastrophic wildfire while they identify a permanent solution for their drinking water needs.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing, community facilities such as schools, public safety, and health care facilities; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. Learn more at www.rd.usda.gov/or.
Sen. Jeff Merkley news release:
Merkley, Wyden Announce $1 Million in Federal Funding to Repair Detroit Water System Destroyed by Wildfire
Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that the City of Detroit is receiving a $1 million grant to support the rebuilding of the city’s water system, which was destroyed by the Lionshead Fire in September 2020, during the state’s unprecedented wildfire season.
“When I went to Detroit to see up close the damage of the Lionshead fire and meet with affected Oregonians, I saw an unfathomable amount of destruction and heard heartbreaking stories of loss—loss of life, homes, and an entire community as we knew it,” said Merkley, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the grant. “Rebuilding the water system and restoring critical water services is a critical step, and there will be plenty more to do but I know the people of Detroit are resilient and will bounce back. Our road to recovery may be long, but we’re going to get through this together.”
“Among the painful accounts Detroit residents shared with me last fall about the devastating wildfires in the North Santiam Canyon was how hard the fallout landed on their town’s water supply,” Wyden said. “I’m glad these essential infrastructure resources have been secured to rebuild the water infrastructure, and know full well there’s much more to be done. I’ll keep fighting for that help for Detroit and all the Oregon communities working so hard to recover and rebound from these destructive wildfires.”
“After the incredible suffering our community has experienced, this grant will provide some much-needed support for critical repairs to our water system,” said Detroit Mayor Jim Trett. “As we continue to rebuild and work to provide basic necessities for our community, we thank Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden for all their efforts in advocating for quick relief, and we look forward to continued federal assistance.”
The grant is being administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development program.
"Access to safe drinking water is essential for residents to be able to return to this rural community and begin rebuilding after the devastating wildfires of 2020. This grant from USDA will help the community create an interim solution that will provide potable water for residents while the town pursues a long-term solution,” said Jill Rees, Acting State Director for USDA Rural Development in Oregon.
In October 2020, Senators Merkley and Wyden brought Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor to Oregon to tour wildfire damage, including a tour of Detroit to assess the damage and better understand the recovery needs of the city.
Last year alone, fires in the west burned over 5.8 million acres, claimed over 30 lives, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. Merkley and Wyden have kept a steady drumbeat on the need to support affected Americans and assist in communities’ efforts to rebuild, including by pressing their colleagues in Congress to include funding for wildfire recovery in upcoming coronavirus relief legislation, and to deliver critical housing assistance to those struggling to find reliable shelter in the wake of the fires.