An environmental study of an abandoned industrial site near Willamette Falls didn’t turn up anything to deter Metro officials studying whether to try to buy the former Blue Heron Paper Mill.

Metro has been looking at the Blue Heron site for more than a year, since the paper company declared bankruptcy, freeing up the area for possible redevelopment and public access. The property is held by a bankruptcy court trustee.

Willamette Falls is the second-largest waterfall in North America by volume, but opportunities for viewing it are scant because of the industrial operations that were founded there 170 years ago to harness the power of the falling water.

Metro councilors were briefed on the site in an executive session on Thursday; members of the media are allowed to attend such sessions but cannot report on what’s discussed there.


Stories Nick Christensen writes for Metro are not edited or altered by the regional agency or the Metro Council. Christensen is a Metro employee, but provides independent reporting on the agency. Metro news is committed to transparency, fairness and accuracy.

After the executive session, Councilor Carlotta Collette said she heard that the council does not want to stop the project. She said moving forward, some of the work could include planning the site.

“People were not yet ready to say, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ ” she said. “I think the support will come, but there are still questions that need to be answered.”

Jim Desmond, director of Metro’s Sustainability Center and head of the natural areas program, said he couldn’t publicly share the results of the environmental investigation because Metro does not own the property.

“We have not discovered anything that would render redevelopment of the parcel obviously infeasible,” Desmond said

The study cost $650,000, of which about $450,000 was paid for through Metro’s natural areas program.

Because the property is in the Willamette Greenway and would improve river access, Desmond said it would qualify for money from Metro’s natural areas bond program.

When asked if the cost of acquiring Blue Heron might top the $6.1 million Metro spent on Chehalem Ridge as the most expensive purchase in the bond program’s history, Desmond said, “I think that’s highly unlikely… I don’t know if we’re buying it. That’s a pretty speculative question, and a speculative answer at this point.”

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