Stops 10 and 11 of One Oregon Listening Tour include visits to Boardman, Echo, Hermiston and Pendleton
Elgin, OR—Governor Tina Kotek and First Lady Aimee Kotek Wilson visited communities in Morrow and Umatilla counties on Wednesday, May 3, and Thursday, May 4, including stops in Boardman, Echo, Hermiston, and Pendleton.
On Wednesday, the Governor and the First Lady started their day with breakfast in Hermiston, and then participated in a round table led by Latino/a leaders at Hermiston City Hall. The conversation covered a broad range of issues including affordable housing, summer learning, youth mental health, and how past flooding continues to impact communities in Umatilla County. The group also focused on the critical need to have first-language outreach and education, particularly for public health issues and disaster warnings.
Next they were off to Echo, where city leaders provided a tour of the town, starting first with a look at the past and current flooding from the Umatilla River that has impacted property and transportation infrastructure. They then toured a dangerous railroad crossing that is a significant safety risk for children walking to and from school.
Following lunch with local leaders, the Governor and First Lady visited the Families First Childcare Center at the Neal Early Learning Center at the Port of Morrow, meeting pre-schoolers in their classroom and high school students training to become early childhood educators. The tour was followed by a childcare and early learning roundtable with a range of community stakeholders at the Blue Mountain Community College training center next door. They discussed the critical need for more workforce and facilities to meet the need for childcare, and the strong ties between the school district, Head Start program, and local providers.
The day concluded with a focus on water contamination in the Lower Umatilla Basin. Oregon Rural Action led a tour of the area, including a recent leak at the Port of Morrow and a visit to the home of a family with a well with documented high nitrate levels. Following the tour, there was a listening session with impacted residents at the Boardman Senior Center.
Community members described the daily frustration and long-term health impacts of the nitrate groundwater contamination. They shared concerns over public awareness, the scope of well-testing, and access to filters and adequate amounts of drinking water. They underscored the urgency of the situation and also expressed a willingness to partner with the state to resolve the issue. Since January, the Governor’s Office has been meeting with relevant federal and state agencies as well as engaging community leaders to build a plan and team that will accelerate the state’s response. More information can be found here.
Residents of the affected region can access testing by visiting the OHA Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area Testing and Treatment webpage
or contacting their county public health department.
On Thursday, the Governor and the First Lady started their day with breakfast at the Wildhorse Resort & Casino with leaders of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. They then traveled into Pendleton for a housing roundtable at the Wildflower Apartments, a new 80-unit complex of affordable units built in response to the devastating 2020 flood that displaced many local residents. In addition to talking about the need for more housing at all levels of affordability and developing the workforce to build that housing, the group discussed the need to build out homelessness services in rural communities, specifically wrap-around and behavioral health services.
“I am committed to being a partner to strengthen services, build collaboration, and work to ensure that the people of Morrow and Umatilla counties have the resources they need to thrive, including access to affordable housing, quality childcare, and clean drinking water,” said Governor Kotek.