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Imagine the possibilities

Website launched to keep public informed of Blue Heron property
by: VERN UYETAKE Public input is sought for the 39-acre West Linn Blue Heron property. A new interactive website called Imagine Willamette was set up to encourage discussions about the property located off Volpp Street in the Willamette neighborhood.

Moving swiftly after the Clackamas County Commissioners' Jan. 26 approval of the purchase of the West Linn Blue Heron property, samples of the property are being drawn and public input is being sought.

The same day the commissioners approved the $1.75 million purchase, the city of West Linn, Clackamas County Service District No. 1 and Tri-City Service District launched the website called Imagine Willamette.

Water Environment Services, working on behalf the two districts, made a bid for the 39 acres located in West Linn in November and recently signed the purchase of sale. The property sits along Volpp Street in the Willamette neighborhood.

The property will address coming changes in regulation and continuing growth within existing urban growth boundaries. The site includes valuable outfall permits, which allow WES to release treated wastewater back into the Willamette River.

Of the 39 acres, WES only needs a small portion, up to five acres, to pump and discharge cleaned wastewater from the Tri-City Plant in Oregon City. That would leave the remaining property up for West Linn use.

This is where the new Imagine Willamette website comes in.

The intention of the site is to give and receive information regarding all future action at the property.

The website features the history of the land and its acquisition, news and updates, ways to get involved and an email list.

Norm Eder, a consultant for WES and a partner at CFM Strategic Communications, said the website is meant to be a communications hub with information coming in and going out.

Eder said the site has two sides, the first dealing with how WES will operate at the site and the mediation of the existing pond. The other side of the website addresses is how the remaining property will be used in the future.

'It's not clear yet what will happen with the rest of the site,' he said. 'People will be able to participate in that conversation.'

Eder said, rather than bringing in experts first and then going to the public, the partners want to first see if there is a consensus by the public of what should happen at the site.

More than likely, the use of the site will be recreational, but there is a wide range of uses within that category, Eder said. A large portion of the property is wetland and is environmentally sensitive.

'We've been working on this for months now,' Eder said. 'We've thought very carefully about public comment and communication.'

Eder said the scope of the website will continue to grow as the process evolves. All communications received on the website will be shared with both the city of West Linn staff and WES. The site is paid for by the two waste water districts.

According to West Linn Assistant City Manager Chris Kerr, the city council is expected to address the property during its 2012 goal setting session.

'We will be putting together a public participation process,' said Kerr, explaining that the website is just one of the tools the city will use to get citizens involved.

Before any real action can take place, WES has 60 days to conduct due diligence with the property. A crew was out at the site during the last week of January taking samples of the pond water to test for contaminiation. Drilling around the lagoon was slated for Feb. 2.

There is also an overlap period of 45 days, during which another agency can bid on the property, starting a bidding war.

The Blue Heron paper mill closed in late February 2011 after filing for bankruptcy. The mill incorporated two parcels - the land on which the mill sits in Oregon City and the West Linn property.

To learn more about the Imagine Willamette website, visit www.imaginewillamette.org.




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