July 23, 2020

Wyden Touts Importance of Improving and Expanding Water Conservation for Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife

In ENR Water and Power Subcommittee hearing on water infrastructure bills, Wyden highlights his critical Water for Conservation and Farming Act, S.4189

Washington, D.C. – During an Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power hearing, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., yesterday highlighted the importance of his Water for Conservation and Farming Act, S. 4189, to help communities in Oregon and across the West experiencing high levels of drought.

“Water is the lifeblood of the northwest. Right now in Oregon, 35 out of 36 counties are experiencing at least some level of drought. And of course with climate change causing uncharacteristic weather events, we as a country need to be mindful of how we use our precious resources. S. 4189 seeks to address those concerns,” Wyden said.

Witnesses for the subcommittee hearing included Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen from Klamath Fall, Ore.; The Freshwater Trust President Joe Whitworth from Portland, Ore.; and Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Aubrey Bettencourt.

Wyden asked Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Keppen about how S. 4189 would address concerns for farmers and ranchers on expanding eligibility for the WaterSmart program to nonprofits.

“What your bill does is it says conservation groups are welcome to apply [for the WaterSmart program], but they need to do it in partnership with the local water entity that has that authority to deliver water. So they work together, and our experience shows that those sorts of partnerships really lead to creative solutions with broad community and political support,” Keppen said.

Wyden also questioned Freshwater Trust President Whitworth on how S. 4189 would help Freshwater Trust ensure that water projects happening on the ground generate cost-efficient environmental benefits.

“One of the sections of the bill we like the most … establishes a grant program and prioritizes the multi-benefit projects that hold the design implementation and monitoring of outcomes of habitat improvements. We think that is an incredibly good step forward,” Whitworth said.

Video of Wyden’s remarks and exchange with witnesses are available here and below.

Wyden introduced S.4189 alongside Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley earlier this month to improve water access for agriculture and conservation by funding projects that improve dam safety, create more resilient watersheds and benefit agricultural and urban water users. The bill would provide $120 million in funding over three years for disadvantaged communities.