Projects in Umatilla, Morrow Counties to Get $11 Million Funding Boost

An infantry squad trains on July 27 in a tactical formation at Rees Training Center near Hermiston. The 2023 federal omnibus spending bill includes $6 million to fund housing supporting students and cadre attending the Regional Training Institute at the training center. (Yasser Marte/Hermiston Herald)

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Hermiston Herald and is part of a content-sharing partnership between Northeast Oregon Now and the Hermiston Herald.

By John Tillman and Beau Glynn/Hermiston Herald

More than $11 million in federal funding is coming for six projects in Umatilla and Morrow counties, including $1.7 million to address drinking water contamination of private wells.

Morrow County Commissioner Melissa Lindsay said that will be a boon.

“This new source of significant funding will allow Morrow and Umatilla counties to develop and implement a standardized well testing program for domestic wells,” she said, “as well as develop a feasibility plan for permanent solutions such as a public drinking water system.”

She added the bi-county partnership will enhance other work within the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area.

Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced the $11 million in allocations Thursday, Dec. 22. The money is from the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package, for fiscal year 2023, which President Joe Biden signed Dec. 23. The lion’s share for Eastern Oregon projects is to further develop the 7,500 acres the Oregon Military Department has on the former Umatilla Chemical Depot in both counties.

The National Defense Authorization Act approved a community project at the Rees Training Center, formerly Camp Umatilla, near Hermiston, Todd Farmer, Oregon Military Department installations division director said. Under this authorization, the Oregon Army National Guard is to receive $6 million in 2023 to fund housing supporting students and cadre attending the Regional Training Institute at the training center.

That’s the largest amount among 22 Eastern Oregon projects receiving the federal allocation.

Housing students and cadre is an Army requirement to enhance the capabilities and accreditation of the institute. This project is scheduled to break ground in early 2023 and could wrap up in 2024. The new housing, adjacent to the schoolhouse, is to provide up to 60 beds for students when infantry school is in session. When no classes are scheduled, the housing is available to service members and can be used to support emergency response efforts in the region.

Two projects in the Pendleton area are receiving funding.

The larger of the two is $1.5 million to Pendleton to help build the road to connect Highway 11 with Highway 30 for future housing development.

“We’ve been working with our Washington, D.C., consultant for the last year-and-a-half to get allocation for projects,” Pendleton Public Works Director Bob Patterson said.  ”The (11/30) project rose to the list because it helps fill the need for workforce housing. We’re opening the area for a lot more homes.”

Patterson said the whole $1.5 million allocation is for road development.

The other project is $700,000 for facility improvements at Oregon State University’s Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center near Adams.

The Business Opportunity Incubator in Irrigon is getting an even $1 million.

“The city of Irrigon’s Business Incubator Opportunity will provide much needed and desired facilities for start-up business adventures,” City Manager Aaron Palmquist said. “Small business venues are the backbone for the American economy.”

And Morrow County is getting $177,000 for its Primary Emergency Operations Center Generator Project.

Morrow County Emergency Manager Paul Gray said this is the second part of a generator project to make sure the county’s emergency operations centers have power when they need it most.

“So the first part was securing funds for the county government building up in Irrigon, which we did receive,” he said. “We haven’t gotten the generator up there yet, but with this funding coming through that will basically supply power to both of our EOCs on the northern and southern ends of the county.”

According to Wyden and Merkley, 145 Oregon communities will receive funding for critical projects, all of varying totals.