EPA Invests in Improving Columbia River Basin Environment

A map of the Columbia River Basin. Image via Province of British Columbia.

Federal funds totaling nearly $32 million are being invested across seven Oregon projects and programs, with a goal of reducing toxic materials in fish and water and addressing climate change issue, to restore the health of the Columbia River Basin.

The money comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $79 million allocation for the Columbia River Basin Restoration Program. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, who announced the new funds on Nov. 16, said the program is proving essential to the Pacific Northwest’s tribes, communities and economy, all of which rely on the watershed.

“Our rivers and waterways are the lifeblood of our communities. If they are dirty and polluted, our homes, schools, and businesses are dirty and polluted,” Merkley said. “The federal investments for these homegrown projects and programs will drive solutions that lead to a cleaner, healthier Columbia River Basin for our communities, wildlife, ecosystems and economy.”

“The Columbia River Basin is a rich and essential part of Oregon’s history, as well an integral part of our present and future,” Wyden said. “Clean water is a key ingredient for thriving and healthy communities in the basin. And I will continue to fight for federal resources just like these that protect this precious natural asset for generations to come.”

Merkley, who serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, amended the Clean Water Act in 2016 to create the Columbia River Basin Restoration Program. Since then, he has fought for funds for the program on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The first wave of grants for the program were announced in August 2022, when Merkley and Wyden were joined by EPA Administrator Michael Regan at Broughton Beach in Portland.

The funds are to be distributed to approved projects over a period of several years. They include $6.3 million for the Salmon-Safe Columbia Partner Network’s Inland Northwest Project and $6 million for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s program offering funding to reduce toxicity in the Columbia River Basin.

A complete list of projects being funded by this round of grants is available at https://tinyurl.com/yu7ypxuh.