WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) report that the Columbia River Restoration Act is moving forward as a part of the Water Resources Development Act which is expected to pass the Senate as early as this week. It was added as part of a broader amendment agreed to by Democratic and Republican leaders on the Environment and Public Works Committee.
“A clean Columbia River is essential for the health of our communities and for the strength of our fishing and recreation industries,” Merkley said.
“I am proud to work on preserving and protecting the Columbia River as it continues to be the environmental and economic lifeblood of our region,” he said.
The legislation authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a voluntary, competitive Columbia Basin grants program for projects that assist in eliminating or reducing pollution, cleaning up contaminated sites, improving water quality, monitoring the basin and promoting citizen engagement.
Toxins are present throughout the Columbia Basin, Merkley and Wyden report.
“These contaminants make their way into fish tissue and can be dangerous to humans if consumed,” their news release states. “Some of these toxins are known to cause cancer and have been linked with neurological, developmental, and reproductive problems including birth defects and learning disabilities.”
The Columbia is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. It is also the only large aquatic ecosystem in the U.S. that currently receives no dedicated funding to clean up and monitor toxic chemicals.