Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a water infrastructure package that includes legislation by U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to improve water quality and services for tribal communities in Oregon and nationwide. The Wyden and Merkley provisions passed April 29 will authorize $250 million for tribal water infrastructure projects and will make sure that Native American tribes most in need will be prioritized.
"Water is a human right; it should be guaranteed. Native American tribes like The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and others nationally that are facing drinking water crises deserve urgent action, and today the Senate delivered," Wyden said. "I'm not going to stop until this legislation is in black letter law and until the Warm Springs reservation is free from boil water notices and have no questions about the quality of their drinking water."
"The crisis at the Warm Springs Reservation is a powerful example of how the coronavirus crisis has made existing water infrastructure challenges even more serious," said Merkley, who serves as the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for both water infrastructure and for tribal programs.
"It is critically important that we help support tribal nations in providing reliable access to drinking water, by boosting funding to replace aging water treatment facilities and fix outdated pipe systems plagued with pressure relief valve failures and bursting pipes," Merkley continued. "Our effort to make sure that everyone can turn on the tap and get safe water is gaining momentum, and I look forward to the Western Tribal Water Infrastructure Act making it to President Biden's desk to be signed into law."
"This legislation would throw a lifeline to tribes like Warm Springs that are in dire need of water infrastructure improvements to serve their tribal membership," Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Chairman Raymond Tsumpti said.
Native American tribes in Oregon and across the West are suffering from inadequate water infrastructure, with aging drinking water treatment and distribution systems subjecting these communities to serious problems such as failed pressure relief valves, burst pipes and unsafe drinking water.
Wyden and Merkley's Western Tribal Water Infrastructure Act – which was first introduced in 2019 and passed the U.S. Senate last week as part of the Drinking Water and Waste Water Infrastructure Act of 2021 – will help support tribal nations' efforts to enact long-term solutions to those problems by ensuring stable and reliable federal investments in water infrastructure projects.
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