As we continue to work to beat back the coronavirus and rebuild our economies after this devastating year, we’ve got to focus on creating the strong foundation our communities need to be healthy and thrive. That’s why I used my positions on the Senate Environment and Public Works and Appropriations Committees to fight for a 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that will help us safeguard Oregon’s incredible waterways, make key investments in communities from West Linn to Coos Bay-North Bend, and strengthen our harbors and ports — including the Port of Astoria, Port of Bandon, and Port Orford.
This year’s WRDA includes up to $2 billion for harbor maintenance needs through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), which would combine with a provision from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Actto total $4 billion in annual assistance for port maintenance. I also fought for new HMTF rules that will go into effect in 2022 and make up to $5 million of funding through the program available to Emerging Harbors — which includes most of Oregon’s — for up to 10 maintenance dredging projects in marinas or berthing areas in harbors.
The bill also authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to resolve silting and shoaling that impacts small ports, execute flood control projects, and construct tribal housing along the Columbia River — urgently needed projects that will help us maintain the infrastructure of our ports and nearby communities. And in keeping with experts’ warnings that the destruction of waterway ecosystems could potentially cripple our local economies and threaten the health and vitality of countless species, the bill authorizes the Army Corps to carry out efforts to put algal bloom control measures in place and restore salmon and steelhead habitat.
It’s also important to recognize that everyone — regardless of the color of their skin or their income — deserves the right to share their insights when it comes to how we go about our water infrastructure projects. This bill will help us realize that goal, by requiring the Army Corps to include disadvantaged communities’ needs in its policies, and to expand its consultations with indigenous groups for projects that are close to tribal lands.
Our waterways belong to all of us, and our ports and harbors are the lifeblood of our coastal communities and economies. I’m going to keep doing all that I can to make sure they receive the support they need, so they can continue to make their countless contributions to our state.
All my best,