Wyden: Hermiston Wastewater Bill, Drought Relief Act

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on two bills by Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore.: S. 693, the City of Hermiston Water Recycling and Reuse Project, and S. 659 – Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act reauthorization.

The City of Hermiston Water Recycling and Reuse Project would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to share a small portion of the costs to build a new wastewater treatment plant.

“This is extraordinarily important to Hermiston,” Wyden testified at the hearing. “If we can put it in place as presently constituted, agricultural production will go up, the local economy will get a boost and it’s going to be good for fish and the environment.”

Wyden is chairman of the full Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Half of the plant’s water will go to irrigate 600 acres of high-value crops per year. The remaining water will go to the Umatilla River to improve water quality and fish habitat.

S. 659 would reauthorize the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act for five years. The program, which provides drought assistance to rural communities, is vital for communities like the Klamath Basin, which faces a potential drought this summer.

“According to the most recent information from the Bureau of Reclamation, the Klamath Basin, which has really been a flashpoint for this debate … has experienced the second-driest January through March period on record,” Wyden said. “You’ve got those water users in the basin understandably worried about a very difficult and treacherous season.”

The program, which expired last year, has provided more than $74 million in drought assistance since 1992. Wyden’s bill would raise the program’s authorization by $20 million, to $110 million, to account for forecasts of prolonged drought in many parts of the country.

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