Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Walden Announces Release of Conservation Funding for Klamath Basin

$7 million in EQIP funding to assist Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers in conducting water quality and quantity improvement projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) today announced the federal government’s release of $7 million in conservation funding to the Klamath Basin. This sum represents a portion of the $50 million in funding earmarked for the Basin in the 2002 Farm Bill under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The funds will provide cost-share payments to farmers and ranchers to employ water conservation measures. Joining Walden in making the announcement was USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Mack Gray.

"I’m encouraged about the conservation projects that this investment is going to make possible, and I’m especially glad to see it delivered on an expedited timeline," said Walden. "Normally, this money would not be released for at least another month, and possibly upwards of two months, under the normal process. This expedited delivery will allow contracts to be signed with farmers and ranchers immediately and before the irrigation season begins. Once again the Bush Administration has gone to bat for the people of the Klamath Basin, and I’m deeply grateful for their support. Working with President Bush’s team on a near daily basis concerning the Klamath Basin, I know how dedicated they are to trying to do the right thing."

Conservation contracts with farmers, ranchers and other landowners are expected to be signed this week. Over 500 interested parties have applied. Today’s $7 million release will fund approximately 30 of these contracts in Oregon and 30-40 in California. $3 million each will be delivered for Oregon and California water conservation projects, in addition to $500,000 each to the two states for technical assistance to carry out the projects.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has worked closely with local working groups in Oregon and California, which are led primarily by local landowners, to prioritize the applications based on those that are expected to produce the maximum water conservation benefit. Examples of conservation projects include juniper removal, conversion from flooding to sprinkler based irrigation, and pasture management.

Dan Keppen, the Executive Director of the Klamath Water Users Association, echoed Walden’s praise for the Administration’s focus on the plight of Klamath Basin producers.

"Today’s expedited delivery of EQIP funding is yet another example of the consistent and unwavering support the farmers and ranchers of the Klamath Basin have received from this Administration," said Keppen.

For additional information, please contact Kevin Conroy with NRCS at (541) 892-5935.

Congressman Walden represents the Second Congressional District of Oregon, which includes 20 counties in southern, central and eastern Oregon. He is a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce as well as the Committee on Resources.