Senate Indian Affairs Committee Advances Wyden and Merkley Bills to Support Oregon Tribes

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today passed the Western Tribal Water Infrastructure Act of 2019, legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to improve water quality and services for tribal communities in Oregon. 

The Committee also advanced legislation sponsored by Merkley and Wyden that seeks to correct an error made in a 1994 piece of legislation to correct an old survey error. This legislation would allow the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to address any future survey errors discovered on their original reservation with the federal government. 

“Between repeated burst pipes, boiled-water notices and COVID-related outbreaks, what is happening on the Warm Springs Reservation is a travesty. I am committed to assisting the Tribe through these difficult situations, and today’s Committee action brings us one step closer to ending the cycle of temporary fixes,” Wyden said. “It is past time the federal government right its wrongs against the Grand Ronde. The Senate must act to bring these bills across the finish line.”

“Reliable access to safe water has only become more important since this public health emergency began,” said Merkley. “Yet the crisis on the Warm Springs Reservation is just one of many examples of how tribal communities in Oregon have long faced water infrastructure challenge after challenge. Now is the time to invest in replacing outdated pipe systems, to help ensure that tribal nations have reliable access to safe drinking water once and for all.  I’m glad to see this bill and the correction of a government surveying error on the Grand Ronde reservation pass committee so we can get them into law soon.”

“We deeply appreciate the hard work from Senators Wyden and Merkley to enact federal legislation to meet the urgent needs on the Warm Springs Reservation. Clean water is critical to the our community’s health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Chairman Raymond Tsumpti.

“The United States made errors in surveying Grand Ronde lands, and it then took away from Grand Ronde its right to be compensated for these errors. That’s not fair. I‘d like to thank Senators Merkley and Wyden for working to correct this injustice,” said Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy.

A web version of this release is here.