February 08, 2022

Merkley, Wyden Announce Bill to Reauthorize Deschutes River Conservancy

Bill Would enable DRC to receive federal funding to promote river health for first time in over a decade

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to address restoration of wildlife and reduce agricultural runoff in central Oregon rivers, Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced critical legislation to reauthorize the Deschutes River Conservancy’s (DRC) federal eligibility to receive federal funding for water quality and conservation projects.

Founded in 1996, DRC initially focused on grazing and timber issues impacting river health, but has shifted to water management in recent years. Following its reauthorization in 2005, DRC was eligible to receive $2 million per year for the next 10 years. However, no allocations were made during this time period and the organization currently relies on private donations or local government entities.

“The work of the Deschutes River Conservancy is critical to the quality of Oregon’s waterways, and their work goes hand-in-hand with the health of our environment,” said Merkley, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. “Reauthorizing the DRC’s ability to receive federal funding will directly impact the stability of our rivers and tributaries, and I will do everything I can to get this legislation to the President’s desk.”

“The Deschutes River Conservancy has shown itself time and again to be an essential piece of Central Oregon’s commitment to water quality and conservation for communities,” Wyden said. “This legislation would build upon the Conservancy’s strong legacy with federal support to help its vital work with rivers and tributaries continue for years to come.”

The DRC received its congressional charter in 1996 and congressional appropriations several years later for conservation projects. Since its creation, the DRC has helped restore 250 CFS of water to parts of the Deschutes River and surrounding tributaries. Upcoming projects will include addressing water quality issues in the Crooked River. The reauthorization would renew the DRC’s eligibility to receive funding from the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), and funds will be matched at 50 percent. The bill would also:

  • Provide up to $2 million in funding per year for 10 years;
  • Amend the congressional charter to reflect changes made to the DRC’s mission and board of directors.

“We are so grateful for the work of Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden to introduce the DRC’s reauthorization legislation. DRC reauthorization would put us in a position to directly access federal funds to restore our rivers and help our communities,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Deschutes River Conservancy. “The DRC has a proven track record of bringing communities together to create on the ground results. This is just the kind of investment that will make our ecosystems and communities resilient into the future.”