Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announce a total of $3,978,520 in federal funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for four Oregon communities to help with the costs of restoring and modernizing water infrastructure which has been damaged by wildfires, droughts and other extreme weather events.
“The resilience of Oregonians has been inspired by recent extreme weather events and an ongoing global pandemic, but no one should live without access to reliable, clean drinking water,” Merkley said. “These federal funds from USDA will help improve water infrastructure — a major concern I hear from people in rural Oregon, and help offset the cost of building barriers designed to protect vulnerable watersheds and treatment plants. I will continue to do everything I can to provide the federal resources needed to provide clean and reliable drinking water for Oregonians in every corner of the state.
“The devastating combination of wildfires, droughts and other effects of extreme weather has devastated far too many Oregon communities and threatened the drinking water on which they depend,” Wyden said. “I’m thrilled that this federal investment in infrastructure is going to our state to help Oregonians protect the clean water they deserve when they turn on the tap. And I will continue to work to secure similar resources throughout Oregon.”
An overview of the projects can be found below:
City of Gold Hill, Jackson County – $215,520:
This rural development investment will be used to cover the costs associated with installing equipment to drain contaminated stormwater and replace damaged intake infrastructure. This includes replacing two pumps, the inlet screens and installing a steel flow bypass structure to divert debris away from the inlet equipment. Built in 1981, the water treatment plant is located on the Rogue River, downstream of multiple creeks affected by the September 2020 Labor Day wildfires, Alameda and South Obenchain. Extensive damage in these sub-basins and increased sediment discharge has impacted the raw water source and led to a decrease in water quality and quantity.
Panther Creek Water District, Lincoln County – $794,000:
This rural development investment will be used to cover the costs associated with the installation of a retaining wall with a fire hydrant at the base, a rain gutter and electrical conduits to facilitate electricity and telecommunications needs. The slope adjacent to the current water treatment plant burned down in September 2020 in the Echo Mountain fires. The slope now poses a landslide risk, which could cause damage to the water treatment plant. The improvements are needed to prevent an impending water supply problem from the Echo Mountain fire.
Ochoco West Water and Sanitary Authority, Crook County – $400,000:
This rural development investment will be used to rebuild spring boxes, retrofit existing backwash ponds, add a new chlorine supply system and add new filters to the water treatment building. Site work also includes excavation and backfilling of gravel and topsoil. At the moment, five spring boxes supply drinking water to the utility company; however, two of the five boxes are damaged and unused. A well and a water treatment plant are also currently not in use. In addition to the well, the OWWSA has a well drilled in 1992 that houses an outdated and non-functioning filter system. A local landslide in 2020 damaged the wells and stopped water flowing to the wells. A drought crisis in 2020 reduced flows in the OWWSA wells and conditions carried over to 2021. These two events resulted in a significant decrease in water quantity and quality.
City of Brookings, Curry County – $2,569,000:
*The City of Brookings also received a USDA loan of $24,996,000 to help complete the project.
This rural development investment will be used to help the City of Brookings spend on necessary repairs to catchment leaks and flow differentials, improved pumping stations and the replacement of parts of the wastewater treatment plant. The city’s wastewater collection system has excessive filtration and inflow, and the pumps are old and outdated. Smoke and flow attempt tests pointed to several deficiencies that need to be addressed and several pumping stations are old and require upgrades.