Tribal Government & News
Tribe receives $2 million EPA grant to reduce basin toxins
By Dean Rhodes
Smoke Signals editor
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has received almost $2 million from the Environmental Protection Agency to help reduce toxins in the Columbia River Basin.
As part of the agency’s 2023 Tribal Grants announced on Thursday, Nov. 16, the EPA is investing $31.7 million across seven Oregon projects and programs designed to reduced toxins in fish and water, address climate change and help restore the health of the almost 260,000-square-mile basin, which includes the Willamette River.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan visited Oregon in August 2022 at the invitation of Sen. Jeff Merkley to, among other things, announce new investments from the recently passed infrastructure law that would support reducing toxins in the Columbia River Basin.
“EPA is taking decisive action to protect public health and the environment for Oregonians and people across the nation,” Regan said during his visit. “We passed the infrastructure law, investing billions in important work like the restoration of the Columbia River Basin, as we’re poised to make historic investments to combat the climate crisis through the Inflation Reduction Act, which will deliver relief to families dealing with the devastating impacts of our greatest climate challenges.”
Regan announced a five-year, $79 million investment from the infrastructure law to protect the Columbia River Basin, including $6.9 million in Clean Water Act grants to be awarded for projects to reduce toxins in fish and water, and address climate impacts in communities.
The Columbia River Basin spans 16 federally recognized Tribal nations and seven states from Oregon and Washington to Wyoming.
Over decades, it has been contaminated by toxic waste from agriculture, forestry, recreation and hydroelectric power generation, which has harmed the health of wildlife and left some fish species threatened, endangered or unsafe for consumption.
The Grand Ronde Toxics Reduction Planning and Action Project will launch a new effort to reduce toxic pollution in the Willamette River Basin and allow for development of a formalized toxics reduction plan for the first time. The project hopes to improve the health and well-being of Tribal members and improve water quality for fish and wildlife.
“We are pleased to partner with the EPA to reduce toxic pollution,” Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy said in a press release. “As longtime stewards of the land and water in the Willamette Valley, the Grand Ronde are committed to protecting and restoring clean water, salmon and healthy communities.”