Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs celebrated over $28 million in federal investments being made to build a new water treatment plant, which is critical to ensure the community will have safe and dependable drinking water for years to come.
The Senators and Warms Springs leadership were joined on-site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS), which are both significantly investing in the long-term health and safety of the Warm Springs community.
“For too long, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs has faced obstacles to accessing reliable drinking water—including water shortages, boil notices, and shutdowns—but these major federal investments mean relief is coming,” said Merkley, who leveraged his position as Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to provide the funding needed across both agencies. “In my tours of the aging water treatment facility, I’ve been amazed by the Warm Springs’ grit and ingenuity to overcome the outdated system and continue to provide water to the community. I can’t wait to see how a new, modern facility will finally provide them with the certainty of clean, safe water every time a tap gets turned on to benefit the health of the entire Warm Springs community.”
“Members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have unjustly been put on hold for years and years when it comes to the federal government investing in the basic promise – and basic premise – that water is a human right,” Wyden said. “Today’s news takes a significant step forward to reversing that shameful and shambolic legacy of burst pipes and ‘boil water’ notices for Tribal families and small businesses. While there’s still work ahead, I look forward to revisiting Warm Springs to celebrate the day when this community gets what it’s long deserved and battled to achieve – water coming out of the faucet that’s clean and reliable.”
"I am grateful that our senators, EPA and IHS have all stepped up to tackle the water quality challenge at Warm Springs," said Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation Tribal Council Chairman Jonathan Smith. "This is an historic investment that will be deeply appreciated by Warm Springs people for decades to come."
“IHS is pleased to recognize the achievements of the project team thus far. The historic funding agreement between the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Indian Health Service has paved the way for the finalization of the treatment plant design and construction contract documents,” Capt. Marcus Martinez, IHS Portland Area Director said. “IHS will continue to support the project team’s efforts toward delivering a long-term and reliable source of safe, clean drinking water.”
“This is the largest tribal water system grant in Region 10 and I am proud to say we are one step closer to the 3,800 people in the Warm Springs community having reliable, safe, and clean drinking water. This project exemplifies the commitment that the Biden administration has made to underserved communities,” said EPA Region 10 Administrator Casey Sixkiller. “EPA is grateful for the partnership with the Tribe and Indian Health Service in identifying a path forward, and appreciative of the advocacy of Senators Merkley and Wyden in helping secure additional funds to address this critical public health priority.”
At today’s celebration, the Warm Springs and IHS gave the Senators and federal agency partners a tour of the existing water treatment plant that was built in 1981, and they explained the challenges the community has faced in recent years, including several water emergencies and a fire which forced the plant to temporarily shut down in March of 2022.
The aging water treatment plant has continued to operate due to the resilience and extraordinary efforts of the Warm Springs over the years, but it was clear a major investment was vital for the nearly 3,800 people who rely on the plant’s drinking water.
To bring a new facility online for the Warm Springs, IHS has obligated $13,601,000 toward the project and EPA provided $10,262,000, funded primarily through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Additionally, Senators Merkley and Wyden secured a $5 million community-initiated project for Warm Springs drinking water infrastructure through the latest government funding package that President Biden signed into law.
The new plant will treat water from the Deschutes River using modern technologies and will provide the Warms Springs with safe, high-quality drinking water. At today’s event, the Senator’s saw the potential site of the new facility, which is located adjacent to the existing plant. The design phase for the new plant is currently underway.
Source: Oregon Senators Ron Wyden & Jeff Merkley