Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have announced that the Columbia River Restoration Act is moving forward as part of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which is expected to pass the Senate as soon as this week.
The legislation would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a voluntary, competitive Columbia Basin grants program for projects that assist in eliminating or reducing pollution, cleaning up contaminated sites, improving water quality, monitoring the basin, and promoting citizen engagement.
“The Columbia River is a cornerstone of our cultural history, used for commerce, fishing, recreation and agriculture. The Pacific Northwest relies on this vital resource remaining clean and healthy to meet our needs,” Wyden said. “I am proud to work on preserving and protecting the Columbia River as it continues to be the environmental and economic lifeblood of our region.”
The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, and the only large aquatic ecosystem in the United States that currently receives no dedicated funding to clean up and monitor toxic chemicals.
It is 1,243 miles long and its drainage basin extends into seven states. Approximately eight million people inhabit the Basin, including members of several Tribal nations and angling groups who frequently fish in its waters. Historically, the Columbia and its tributaries have constituted the largest salmon-producing river system in the world, with annual returns peaking at 16 million fish.
The Columbia River Restoration Act is supported by a diverse group of stakeholders including the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, and Salmon-Safe.