Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced a total of $34 Million dollars allocated by the Indian Health Service is headed to three tribes in Oregon. Senator Merkley, as Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee that funds these projects, and Senator Wyden, author of the Western Tribal Water Infrastructure Act, fought hard to ensure funding for tribal water improvements was included in the Infrastructure and Investments Jobs Act (IIJA).
“Turning on the tap and accessing safe and clean water shouldn’t depend on your income or your zip code,” said Merkley. “Access to clean water and dependable water infrastructure is crucial to tribal communities across the nation. This important funding will help the United States meet its treaty and trust obligations and provide support to ensure individuals and families have access to clean water and wastewater disposal at their homes and reduce illnesses related to poor water quality and sanitation.”
“Water is a human right, and Tribal communities in Oregon have suffered far too long from unsafe and undependable access to that essential right,” said Wyden. “I pressed to pass the Western Tribal Water Infrastructure Act and also to secure these vital resources in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law after hearing firsthand during visits to reservations in our state just how urgent the water crisis was for these communities. Today’s news takes a good step to repair these long-time injustices, and I’ll keep working until all Tribes in Oregon and nationwide can drink their water with full confidence in its quality.”
These federal grants will fund projects intended to address and improve critical services like water wells and onsite wastewater disposal systems, and connections to community water supply and wastewater disposal systems. Not only do these improvements benefit water infrastructure for tribal communities, these sanitation facility improvements can reduce hospital visits related to respiratory, skin and soft tissue, and gastroenteric disease. Every $1 spent on water and sewer infrastructure can save $1.23 in avoided direct healthcare costs.
$25,825,685 to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, $5,007,500 to the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation, $3,114,989 to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, $65,000 to the Western Oregon District Office.
Indian Health Service funding allocation decisions coincide with recommendations from tribal leaders around the country to prioritize funding for projects that have completed the planning phase and can begin the design and construction phase immediately, and to provide sufficient funding for planning and design activities to get projects ready to fund.