(The Center Square) – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats from Oregon, announced that Klamath County Public Health and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation recently secured a combined $5.1 million in federal funds to improve air quality.
“This federal investment packs a one-two punch because it improves overall air quality and helps Oregonians get efficient heat sources to replace their wood-burning units,” Wyden said in a press release. “That adds up to a huge win for quality of life in Klamath County as well as for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.”
Merkley said the funding will help improve public health.
“These critical investments will be used to help ensure folks in Klamath County and on the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation have the support and innovation to better monitor and improve air quality,” Merkley said. “Air pollution often goes unnoticed but can contribute greatly to chronic health conditions. This funding will help improve health outcomes and quality of life for thousands of Oregonians.”
Of the funding, $4.67 million from the Environmental Protection Agency will be sent to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to partner with Klamath County Public Health. The two agencies will replace about 300 woodstoves and weatherize 100 houses in Klamath County. They will focus on “improving services to underserved populations who rely on wood for heat.”
Plus, $323,630 of the funding will go to utility assistance for low-income applicants who change out their woodstoves through the program.
The program might not do much to improve the air quality ordinary Oregonians breathe. The primary pollution cased by wood stoves is inside the houses that use them which will see a large improvement in air quality with a new stove, according to the EPA.
Also, the EPA will send $451,250 to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation for air quality monitoring, which does not improve air quality.
“Air quality is an area of public health that requires our constant attention and intention,” Jennifer Little, director of Klamath County Public Health, said. “We’ve had two diligent partners in working toward better air for everyone in the DEQ and South Central Oregon Economic Development District. This grant also includes a new element with Klamath Lake Community Action Services, which is an exciting addition to the ongoing work. Our community is better for the work of each and our continued partnership.”