▶️ OR senators tour Warm Springs water treatment plant; tout infrastructure bill

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Hopes for upgrading an aging water system on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation were bolstered today.

Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden and federal officials who are tribal members, toured the Warm Springs water treatment plant, which is listed for replacement in the bi-partisan Infrastructure Bill currently working its way through Congress.

Boil water notices and warnings about low pressure in the water delivery system have plagued the Warm Springs Reservation in recent years.

On numerous occasions, bottled water was made available to tribal members when water service was compromised and repairs were made to the more than 40-year-old water system.

“Depending on complexity of the project–a collapsed sewer line for example–you could be talking about a matter of months. Something like the Dry Creek treatment plant, you are probably talking several years to bring it online,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR.

But more sustainable help is on the way.

Eleven billion dollars in the bi-partisan infrastructure bill now working its way through Congress is dedicated to tribal infrastructure.

About a third of that money is for water projects.

“This legislation will directly help Warm Springs with new pipes and pumps to deliver clean, clear drinking water to the folks here,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR.

Repairs to a collapsed sewer main and replacement of the Dry Creek Water Treatment plant are authorized on the Indian Health Services list of projects in Warm Springs.

“I believe the tour today was exactly what we needed to put the spotlight on the reservation and the deficiencies that we have to deal with,” said Chico Holliday, Warm Springs Public Utilities General Manager.

“The treatment plant was built in 1981. They got to see how antiquated the equipment is…the pumps, the electrical, the pipes. All looks antiquated,” said Glendon Smith, Warm Springs Tribal Council Treasurer and CEO.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first native American appointed to a cabinet position, was expected to be on the tour but could not make the trip due a family emergency.

Her assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, Bryan Newland, filled in.

“Every family deserves clean, potable and affordable drinking water, but tribal communities are too often left behind in that effort,” Newland said.

Senators Merkley and Wyden said the fate of the infrastructure bill and improvements it could fund in Warm Springs should be decided in a matter of weeks.

 

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