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County education, RVTD will also benefit from the Omnibus Act

Federal bill to help tanker base

Jackson County will get &

36;5 million from a federal bill that will provide funding for everything from education programs to the refurbishing of the Medford Air Tanker Base.

The Omnibus Appropriations Act, backed by Congressman Greg Walden and Senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden, will provide &

36;1.2 million for the tanker base, which was threatened with closure last year.

The federal bill for fiscal year 2003 has already been approved by both houses, and President Bush has indicated he will sign it.

The bill will also provide funding for the Santo Community Center, a study of the city of Medford's effluent, buses and bus facilities for Rogue Valley Transportation District and the Rogue Basin Project at Savage Rapids.

Southern Oregon University will get a &

36;500,000 grant for its theater education project and &

36;150,000 for the Les AuCoin Institute for ecology.

Jackson County Commission Jack Walker, speaking at a town hall meeting Monday featuring Sens. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden, said that the future of the tanker base in Medford is now assured.

We really struggled to figure out how to prove our need for the tanker base and reach our legislators, said Jackson County Commissioner Jack Walker.

Commissioner Sue Kupillas said the base's importance was revealed last summer when it was used to fight the blazes that ravaged Southern Oregon's forests.

At the town hall meeting, former Oregon Rep. Bob Smith said the Rogue Valley did well with legislation that will help so many projects

This has blessed us with opportunities for jobs and the future, he said.

Republican Sen. Smith said the funding bill was a collaborative, bipartisan effort.

These are things that Ron Wyden and I try to do together, he said.

Les AuCoin, who heads the AuCoin Institute, said the grant will give his struggling ecology center a financial boost.

Congress' investment in the institute will allow SOU to spur academic innovation and community education in one of the most important eco-regions of the country, said AuCoin.

SOU President Elizabeth Zinser said the federal money will help the school during a time of budget cuts.

Speaking to the two senators, Zinser said, from SOU we want to thank you for your commitment to education.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail