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Merkley, Wyden detail economic development, research, public safety funding in package

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WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced Thursday federal funding for critical programs supporting economic development, research, and the safety of vulnerable populations in communities across Oregon in Congress’s final funding package for fiscal year 2022.

The victories for Oregon are in the Commerce, Justice, and Science portion of Congress’s omnibus spending bill, which is expected to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law by President Biden this week, according to the senators' news release, which continues in full below.

“I joined the Appropriations Committee to turn the input from Oregonians into solutions that meet our needs and support our communities, like mitigating the impacts of climate chaos and to ensuring the safety of our most vulnerable populations,” Merkley said. “From long-overdue resources for tribes’ domestic violence programs, to new equipment for our rural first responders, the highest-ever funding for the Office on Violence Against Women, and substantial funding for salmon and other research programs right here in Oregon, this bill delivers in a big way for our state and the nation.”

“I know from holding more than 1,000 town halls throughout our state that Oregonians believe strongly in science-based solutions, investments in rural job creation and support for vulnerable communities,” Wyden said. “Thanks to Oregonians’ input about their communities’ needs, this legislation takes key steps to tackle the climate crisis, protect women from violence, build on our state’s world-renowned research, invest in rural Oregon and Tribal communities alike,  and much more.”

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.

The Commerce, Justice and Science portion of the omnibus bill provides support for tribal and local victim assistance programs, as well as funding for scientific research that has become more urgent as the impacts of climate change become increasingly severe:

Addressing Violence Against Women: The bill contains $575 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. Critically, the landmark Violence Against Women Act, which previously remained expired, will finally be reauthorized and ensure legal protections are extended to Native American, transgender, and immigrant women. An additional $201 million is provided to reduce the backlog of unprocessed rape kits and other DNA evidence.

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 $107 million in grant funding for various programs, including $50 million for tribal assistance, $31.5 million for tribal resources, and $5.5 million for the Office of Violence Against Women for a special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction program.

Economic Development Administration (EDA): Merkley led a successful, bipartisan effort to secure $373.5 million for the program, a $27.5 million increase in funding. The EDA leverages existing regional assets to support economic development in rural communities.

Research Vessels: The bill continues funding for the National Science Foundation Regional Class Research Vessel Program. 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. It is expected that one of the three vessels under construction will be homeported in Newport.

Salmon Management: Salmon population management programs, including the operations and maintenance of Mitchell Act hatcheries received $63 million. The bill includes $39.5 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.

National Sea Grant College Program: The bill includes $76 million for the National Sea Grant College Program, a priority for Oregon State University, the program provides important activities in coastal community resiliency, including $25M for the Sea Grant Resilient Coasts Initiative; healthy coastal ecosystems; sustainable fisheries and aquaculture; environmental literacy and workforce development.

Coastal Zone Management: The Coastal Zone Management grants were funded at $79 million. 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.

Regional Information Sharing Activities: The program received $42 million to support the activities that enable the sharing of nationwide criminal information and other resources and that supports the Western States Information Network used by Oregon departments.

In addition to the funding allotments above, Merkley and Wyden secured in the bill federal funding for specific community projects throughout Oregon, including:

  • $945,000 for the Ocean Foundation for an Oregon Kelp Forest Survey
  • $500,000 for the City of Beaverton for the Beaverton Behavioral Health Court
  • $190,000 for the Baker County Sheriff’s Office for a Radio Infrastructure Upgrade
  • $200,000 for the City of Eugene for Public Safety Vehicle Procurement
  • $2.5 million for Tillamook County for a project on Fish Passage Restoration
  • $585,000 for the City of Milwaukie for a Kellogg Dam Channel Study
  • $132,000 for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office for Community-based gun violence intervention
  • $1.699 million for McKenzie River Trust for the Finn Rock Floodplain Habitat Restoration Project
  • $648,000 for the Lane County Sheriff’s Office for Body-Worn Cameras
  • $606,000 for Grant County Emergency Management for Grant County Public Safety Communications
  • $1.545 million for Harney County Emergency Management for a Public Safety Communications Upgrade
  • $760,000 for Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction Program Upgrade and Expansion, with Representative Bonamici
  • $231,000 for Coos County for an Emergency Radio Communications, with Representative DeFazio
  • $1,200,000 for Marion County for Public Safety Radio System Upgrade and Repairs, with Representative Schrader
  • $200,000 for City of Portland for Violence Prevention Outreach, with Representative Blumenauer
  • $100,000 for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Whale Entanglement Risk Reduction Research, with Representative Schrader

“The Oregon Kelp Alliance is excited by this opportunity to engage coastal communities in a survey of Oregon’s kelp forests. This work will inform management and conservation activities, and the development of a kelp forest restoration plan for Oregon.” said Tom Calvanese, Coordinator for the Oregon Kelp Alliance (ORKA). The Oregon Kelp Forest Survey and Kelp Forest Restoration Plan will put coastal communities to work with scientists on aerial drone and underwater surveys of kelp forests in Oregon, while building local capacity for kelp forest stewardship. These efforts will be guided by the ORKA Science and Technical Advisory Committee, chaired by Dr. Sara Hamilton, Postdoctoral Researcher at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab. “These important habitats have undergone significant changes in recent years due to warming oceans, loss of predators, and population booms of purple sea urchins, which eat kelp." Sara is a recent graduate of Oregon State University, where she earned her PhD in Integrative Biology studying kelp forest ecology and has been active as a science advisor to the Oregon Kelp Alliance. "ORKA appreciates Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden’s long-standing and strong advocacy for healthy kelp forests, and their contribution to the commercial fisheries and biodiversity of Oregon’s nearshore oceans.” 

“The Ocean Foundation is excited and honored to serve as the Oregon Kelp Alliance’s fiscal sponsor,” said Ben Scheelk of the Blue Resilience Initiative with the The Ocean Foundation. “Our staff members provide financial, administrative, legal, and project counseling support so that project leaders can focus on program planning, fundraising, and outreach. As a result of the services provided, we are confident that the Oregon Kelp Alliance will succeed in its efforts to engage coastal communities and drive change for years to come; and we’re grateful for the generous support of all stakeholders.”

“We are extremely thankful for the Senate Appropriations Committee’s decision to award the Lane County Sheriff’s Office with body-worn camera funding,” said Lane County Sheriff Cliff Harrold. “For over five years The Lane County Sheriff’s Office has worked to identify a way to equip our deputies with this very vital policing tool. Our agency operates on a very limited budget and funding for body worn cameras has always been the greatest obstacle to obtaining them. As a result, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office is the only large law enforcement agency in Lane County that has unable to equip their sworn staff with body-worn cameras. Recorded video obtained from body-worn cameras has real value and provides transparency, ensures our professional standards, assists in officer complaint investigations, and provides great evidence in criminal investigations. All of these advantages work directly to improve the relationship between police and the communities that they serve. As we continue to balance our budget and the needs of our community, we are encouraged to know that assistance from the federal government and Senator Merkley’s and Senator Wyden’s direct efforts have made our goal a reality. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to provide body worn cameras for our sworn staff.”

“The Salmon SuperHwy project in Tillamook County is living proof that we help people and local communities when we help recover and sustain fish and wildlife,” said Sarah Zwissler, coordinator of the project with Trout Unlimited. “Our work to reconnect aquatic habitat for native salmon, steelhead, trout, and lamprey while upgrading the road system our region relies on provides multiple benefits to the rural communities here. The principal drivers of our regional economy—agriculture, forestry, fishing, and tourism—all rely on healthy watersheds and well maintained roads. This $2.5 million in new federal funding will deliver a huge boost to the Salmon SuperHwy, and Trout Unlimited will leverage those funds to expand the benefits of reconnected fish habitat and climate-resilient infrastructure. On behalf of the fish and people of the Nestucca and Tillamook watersheds, we thank Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden for their dedication to securing funding for the Salmon SuperHwy and other programs that support the communities, economy, and natural resources of the Oregon coast.”

“The Sheriff’s Office appreciates this opportunity which will allow us to update radio infrastructure, improving communications among first responders (EMS, Fire, and law enforcement) and also with the dispatch center,” said Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash. “These upgrades will not only increase officer safety, but will also enhance the services provided to those we serve throughout our community. This project will truly be a benefit to all.”

"This is the single greatest project we can do to restore salmon in our watersheds" said Neil Schulman, Executive Director of North Clackamas Watersheds Council, based in Milwaukie. "It's the highest-priority barrier to salmon in Oregon owned by ODOT, and it's been sitting there since the 1890s doing nothing. Removing it will also re-invigorate downtown Milwaukie, create a new natural area for people, and create over 550 jobs restoring the environment. It's the definition of a win-win."

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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