November 18, 2009

Wyden, Merkley Announce Millions in Military Construction Projects, VA Health Care

Veterans Affairs Funding to be for Two-Year Cycle for First Time

Washington, D.C. - Working to provide the means to keep Oregon's military infrastructure up-to-date and to ensure emergency services have the tools to keep residents safe, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) announced millions in funding for Oregon as part of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill passed by the Senate. The bill also marks the first time that the veterans health care funding will be budgeted for a two-year period supplanting the yearly budgeting process.

"In addition to boosting job growth and improving Oregon's military infrastructure and emergency services, this bill will ensure that veterans healthcare funding is no longer treated like a political football every year," Wyden said. "Budgeting for two years at a time will help to take the political wrangling out of the process and improve the department's ability to plan for long-term health care goals."

"I can't think of a better way to put people to work than to help restore crumbling infrastructure, improve the quality of life for our veterans and upgrade emergency services for local residents," said Merkley. "This bill will also streamline the budgeting process and remove cumbersome red tape that impedes Congress from providing health clinics with the resources they need to take care of our veterans and men and women in uniform."

The bill will be reconciled with the version passed by the House of Representatives and then sent to the President for his signature. Funding will only be available at the end of the process.

Projects included in the Military Construction appropriations bill include:

Camp Withycombe Infrastructure - $1,226,000

This project will support existing and future construction, such as improvements to roads with curbs and landscaping, fitting storm and sewer systems with a new manhole connection, improvements to the power infrastructure and replacement of all overhead copper with fiber communication systems. The project will also reconfigure gas lines and connections, install new water lines with new building connections and valves as well as install lights in compounds and on the street.

Camp Rilea Water Supply System - $3,369,000

This project will develop an independent water supply system to provide potable drinking water and fire suppression water for Camp Rilea's residents and emergency populations. The project includes construction of three 200' groundwater supply wells, a 48' by 60' water treatment plant, a 400,000 gallon storage reservoir and well pump stations.

Washington County Readiness Center - $386,000

The funding will provide for the design of a replacement to the existing armory in Hillsboro, Ore. to adequately accommodate units of D Company, 2nd Battalion of the 162 Infantry Regiment. It would construct a 37,707 sq. ft. facility to support administrative and training functions for the unit with adequate classroom and administrative space for training and operations for homeland security, anti-terrorism, and force protection.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also included positive language about building a long-term care facility on the grounds of the Walla Walla VA Medical Center in Walla Walla, Washington. The facility currently serves veterans of northern Oregon and southern Washington State. The committee supports the creation of a jointly-operated veterans' home and encourages the VA to put the project on the priority list for construction grants.