Sen. Jeff Merkley

Sen. Jeff Merkley

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Peter DeFazio, the chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, along with the entire Oregon delegation, are pushing for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to include funding for Oregon’s port infrastructure as the agency implements the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

In a letter sent to the Army Corps and the Office of Management and Budget, the lawmakers requested allocated funds be set aside to ensure federally authorized waterways and navigation infrastructure in the State of Oregon are properly maintained, which is especially critical to Oregon’s small ports.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit rural communities and small, commercial ports with multiple economic losses from higher safety and sanitation costs, shelter-in-place orders, tenants seeking lease deferral, a severe downturn of the commercial fishing markets, and ports were not eligible to receive much of the relief funds,” the lawmakers wrote. “These ports are a source of jobs, recreation, and tax benefit to the state and local community and additional operations and maintenance funding is critical for the federal channels and structures that serve these communities.”

Oregon is home to export gateways, inland barging terminals, and small commercial and recreational fishing ports, all 23 of which play a significant role in Oregon’s economy. The IIJA is a landmark piece of legislation that will invest in land and water infrastructure, the labor force, broadband infrastructure, and the economy. It’s critical that as this legislation is implemented, Oregon’s small ports—many of which have years of deferred maintenance needs—are able to access and benefit from the funding made available by IIJA.

The letter includes funding requests for things like dredging, maintenance of jetties and canal locks, fish passages, and other infrastructure needed to maintain navigation via Oregon’s rivers and ports. Merkley and DeFazio noted that every lock and dam on the Columbia River has long-overdue additional maintenance needs.

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