Congressman Greg Walden's Oregon Congressional Connection
Your Direct Link to the News and Events in the Nation's Capital
April 6, 2005
Dear Fellow Oregonian:
The last couple of weeks have certainly been busy. Before Congress adjourned for the Spring District Work Period, I had a packed week in Washington, D.C. with six committee hearings on a variety of issues, including nuclear facility security, voice over internet communications, fraud in the national e-rate program, power marketing administrations - such as Bonneville, and the mark up of natural resources legislation. Additionally that week, I met with dozens of Oregonians who were in D.C. including the League of Oregon Cities; representatives from the Hermiston and Medford City Councils; the Oregon Medical Association; individuals from Portland State University, Southern Oregon University and Umpqua Community College; Oregon School Food Service Association representatives; the Colorectal Cancer Coalition; the National Farmers Union; the Mid-Columbia Housing Authority; the Health Care Coalition of Southern Oregon; University of Oregon President Dave Frohmayer; the Bicycle Transportation Alliance; Lake County Resources Initiative Executive Director Jim Walls; the Oregon Wheat Growers; and constituents visiting the nation's capitol from the District.
During the district work period, I spent the week going to seven counties in the northeastern part of the District, holding town hall meetings and attending events that included other key topics to our region including health care, the Umatilla Chemical Depot, economic development, forestland management and the Wallowa-Union railroad. Meeting with residents throughout the District is so important as it helps me create my "to do" list for back in Washington, D.C.
I started the week in my hometown of Hood River with an event at the Port of Hood River where I learned more about a project that will help alleviate traffic congestion and increase safety along I-84. The project, for which I secured $500,000 in the House version of the Transportation Equity Act of 2005, attaches the existing frontage road over the Hood River for vehicle traffic; this road is currently only connected by a pedestrian walkway, forcing vehicle traffic onto I-84 for a brief stretch, jamming on- and off-ramps unnecessarily.
I then went up to Stevenson, Washington to give the keynote address at the annual conference of the American Forest Resource Council, which was being held at Skamania Lodge. They asked me to speak because of my role as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. I gave the attendees an overview of what we've addressed so far during the 109th Congress relating to forestry issues. Recently in the subcommittee, we held a hearing on a report released by the Government Accountability Office that confirmed what we have believed to be true: the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) has contributed to accomplishments and improvements in forest management policies, but we have quite a bit of work left to do. I also talked some about the need to address forest management as it relates to post catastrophic events - the recovery and restoration of lands ravaged by events such as hurricane, catastrophic wildfire, ice or windstorms. You can view that GAO report here, or you can go to www.healthyforests.gov for information on HFRA and current HFRA projects.
After speaking in Stevenson, I came back across the river and went to Arlington where I held a community town hall luncheon. I was grateful to those who took time out of their day to join me as I updated them on my work in the Congress and, more importantly, took comments and questions from the group. I was in Arlington last August when I announced a $950,000 federal investment in the Gilliam County Grain Quality lab with Dr. David Sampson, assistant secretary of Commerce for economic development. Last year, I was also able to help secure a $500,000 federal investment in Columbia Energy Partners, LLP for their development of the Mar-Lu Wind Farm, a wind power generation facility located near Arlington.
Following the Arlington town hall, I went on a tour of the Umatilla Chemical Depot and attended a meeting of community leaders where I received an update on the Depot's activities and future plans. This was a great opportunity to once again see the Depot's operations in person and hear about its activities from Lieutenant Colonel Holliday. Last week I also cosponsored H.R. 416, bipartisan legislation that would prohibit the Department of Defense (DOD) from expending funds for the study of interstate transportation of chemical munitions. In an effort to get the U.S. on track to destroy our chemical weapons destroyed by the 2012 deadline, the idea had been proposed that munitions stored in areas with no demilitarization facility be moved to existing facilities, such as the one in Umatilla County. I firmly believe that the transportation of these weapons poses a dangerous scenario as it means volatile chemical weapons would be traveling down busy, open and exposed highways. As a result, communities could be vulnerable to chemical byproducts emitted if there were a traffic accident or a terrorist attack. You can read more about H.R. 416 here or you can read my announcement on this bill here.
I then went to Helix to speak to the Chamber of Commerce at their annual dinner. In addition to giving members and guests an update on congressional activity and answering questions from attendees, I was able to hear from Chamber leaders about ongoing group activities and projects currently underway. At the dinner, the Chamber honored Virgil Brooks as Citizen of the Year. I would like to congratulate Virgil and thank him for his continued dedication to his community.
In Pendleton, during a visit to St. Anthony's Home Care and Hospice, I met with representatives of the Oregon Association of Home Care (OAHC) and their national counterpart the NAHC. I was proud to receive from them their "Legislator of the Year" award for my work on home health care issues, especially in rural areas. The benefits that home care can provide a patient go beyond the comfort of being able to remain in one's own home and community; costs are often half those of care provided in facilities. I am honored to receive this recognition. If you would like to read their announcement, you can do so here. In addition to visiting with patients in Pendleton, I also went to Wallowa Memorial Home Health in Wallowa County and the Columbia River Community Health Services in Morrow County.
Also on the topic of health care, I want to congratulate Valerie Henry, my primary legislative assistant for health care issues. She was just awarded with the National Rural Health Association's 2005 Legislative Staff Award in recognition of her hard work on behalf of rural health issues and her work in my office to advance important rural-specific reforms here in the House of Representatives. In addition to assisting me with health care policy issues, Valerie also helps with my work as co-chairman of the bipartisan House Rural Health Care Coaltion. Her knowledge of these issues and her constant dedication to helping residents in Oregon's Second District are of tremendous value to the office.
In Union County, I toured the fuels reduction project at Mt. Emily in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. This project is designed to reduce fuels that can cause catastrophic wildfire in the region, threatening the environment, species and local communities. In addition to meeting with Forest Supervisor Steve Ellis, La Grande District Ranger Kurt Wiedenmann and Oregon Department of Forestry Representative Mark Jacques, I met with county commissioners and members of the Union County Forest Restoration Board. It is great to see these successful projects underway throughout the Second District and I commend the work done by those involved.
Additionally, David and Lee Manuel took me on a tour of the Hot Lake Resort restoration project in Union County. This project, a priority of the Union County Commissioners who joined me on the tour, is a major undertaking and could be a driving force behind continued economic development in the region, especially to the local tourism industry. I am glad to team up with the commissioners on this local initiative and am currently working in the Congress to pursue a federal investment to help the project move toward a successful completion.
Another economic development effort underway in northeast Oregon is the Wallowa-Union Railroad. I was able to take my first trip on this railroad, riding the breathtaking 10-mile stretch from Wallowa to Minam known for its steelhead fishing and fabulous scenery. During the trip, which included local officials and county commissioners, I was able to hear from those instrumental in working together to purchase the railroad, ultimately keeping it operational for both freight and excursion tours.
In the ongoing fight against methamphetamine, I cosponsored H.R. 798, "The Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2005." This bill directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish voluntary guidelines to assist state and local governments in the remediation of former meth lab sites while also calling for various research programs aimed at increasing our knowledge of environmental and property contamination. During the seven town halls I held in February and March on this issue throughout central, southern and eastern Oregon, it was evident that communities are becoming more and more focused on this scourge. Meth is a poison that ravages the minds and bodies of its users, threatens public safety, costs taxpayers thousands of dollars, and destroys environments surrounding the clandestine labs in which it is produced. The least we can do at the federal level is help arm communities and local governments, those engaged in this battle on the front lines, with the tools and research critical to the safe and effective management of lands contaminated by use and production of this toxic substance. For those who were not able to attend one of my hall summits on the fight against methamphetamine, you can now watch the Grants Pass forum online by visiting my website.
Today, the House of Representatives will vote on a resolution honoring the life and accomplishments of Pope John Paul II. A man of strength and wisdom, John Paul became an inspiration to generations of both Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the world by encouraging freedom, promoting peace and respecting all faiths. He will be revered as a true leader and a champion for human dignity.
On another front, I am pleased to announce the start of the 2005 Congressional Art Competition, "An Artistic Discovery." The competition, which gives students interested in art an opportunity to showcase their work and compete for a chance to have it displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building or in one of my offices, is open to high school students (or those in grades seven and above when middle and high school share a facility). A finalist will be chosen from each of the 20 counties in my district and I'll send those on to a panel of local college art professors for their selection of the overall winner and three runners-up. To be considered, artwork must be two-dimensional. The deadline to submit photos of your work to my Medford office is May 12, so please, if you are interested, contact us right away. You can get more information from my website or you can contact Nathan Rae in my Washington, D.C. office at Nathan.firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 226-5234.
Finally, I want to congratulate my chief of staff, Brian MacDonald, and his wife Poppy (both native Oregonians) on the arrival of their first child. Gill Patrick MacDonald was born on April 2. Both he and his parents are doing very well. As a parent, I know what a tremendous joy this is for Brian and Poppy, and I wish the MacDonald family all the best.
There is a lot going on in Congress and as developments occur and issues unfold I will certainly keep you updated. The coming weeks will be filled with work back in Washington, D.C. on appropriations, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, additional meetings with Oregonians in D.C., and issues from grazing and water storage to health care and national security.
You can always find information on my website at www.walden.house.gov. If you have any questions or comments about this e-newsletter or anything else taking place in Congress and our nation's capital, please visit my web site and click on "Contact Me" to send me an email. Your thoughts are most important to me as the help keep my "to do" list updated. You can also call my Medford office toll free from any phone in the 541 area code at 1-800-533-3303 or my Bend office at 541-389-4408. My staff and I look forward to hearing from you.
I hope you find this edition of the Oregon Congressional Connection helpful and informative.
Congressman Greg Walden