February 27, 2014

Wyden, Merkley Water Bills Advance

Bills Will Create Economic Opportunities, Improve Infrastructure and Better Utilize Water Resources

Washington, D.C. – Three bills to secure the safety of Oregon water supplies, upgrade Scoggins Dam to provide certainty for Washington County employers, and spur development of next-generation hydropower moved forward in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Oregon Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced today.

Wyden and Merkley said they were encouraged by the step forward three of their bills took when a subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on them today. Among the bills considered were the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act (S. 1771), a bill to extend the Bureau of Reclamation’s Safety of Dams program (S. 1946) and the Marine Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act (S. 1419).

The next step for all three bills is a vote before the full Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Wyden is the former chairman and a senior member of the committee.

“Together, these bills will enhance economic certainty for Washington County residents and businesses, and ensure that central Oregon has the water it needs to fuel an expanding high-tech sector and grow jobs, not just for a few years, but for decades,” Wyden said. “These bills will provide communities with assurances that federal facilities like Scoggins Dam get the safety upgrades they so badly need.”

“We are moving forward on an issue that is critically important to communities across Oregon, and that is ensuring that dams like the Scoggins Dam receive vital safety upgrades as they age,” Merkley said. “Arbitrary federal limits should not stand in the way of repairs and improvements that could save lives in the event of an earthquake.”

The subcommittee welcomed Oregon’s Washington County Chair Andy Duyck, who testified on Wyden’s bill (S. 1946) to extend the Bureau of Reclamation’s Safety of Dams program. The bill will improve the infrastructure of dams across the western United States, including Scoggins Dam in Washington County, and provide much-needed economic certainty for the region. Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, joined Wyden and Merkley in introducing the bill earlier this year.

Members also heard from Dr. Belinda Batten, director of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University, who testified on the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act. Wyden and Merkley, along with Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Angus King, I-Maine, and Schatz, introduced S. 1419 to streamline the regulatory process and encourage research and development of renewable energy from waves, currents, ocean tides and free-flowing water in lakes and rivers.

Oregon State University, in partnership with the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, has been a world leader in developing wave energy technology. Researchers at OSU are currently testing the potential of wave energy generation at the nation’s first wave energy test site in Newport, Oregon.

“The Marine Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act will build on the trailblazing work Oregon State University is already doing to harness renewable energy from ocean wave technology and help the United States stay competitive when it comes to the forgotten renewables like hydropower,” Wyden said.

“Oregon is known as an innovative state and our innovation in ocean wave technology is no exception. We should be expanding on the groundbreaking work OSU has done and this bill will help do just that,” Merkley said.

Additionally, the subcommittee considered the  Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act (S. 1771), which Wyden and Merkley introduced in November to improve water management along the Crooked River and provide a secure water supply for residents and endangered fish who depend on the Prineville Reservoir.