State to allow easements for water infrastructure work

by: VERN UYETAKE - Mary S. Young State Park opened on the Willamette River in West Linn in the 1970s. As part of plans to upgrade and expand its infrastructure to share drinking water with Tigard, Lake Oswego has signed a deal to obtain easements to run and maintain a water supply pipeline under some of the park.The Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership will defend the state should any heirs of Mary S. Young challenge the cities’ plans to tunnel under Mary S. Young State Park while constructing a new water pipeline.

That’s according to an agreement reached by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and city of Lake Oswego over easements considered crucial to water infrastructure projects now underway. The Lake Oswego City Council approved the agreement with no discussion during a regular meeting Tuesday night.

The 130-acre park sits on the Willamette River, close to the city of Lake Oswego’s water treatment plant, now being expanded between Mapleton Drive and Kenthorpe Way in West Linn. It’s owned by the state but managed by the city of West Linn.

Jane Heisler, communications director for the water partnership, said the new agreement is critical to planned infrastructure projects, including the water supply pipeline running from Gladstone to the treatment plant in West Linn.

“It’s very important because we need a landing place on the west side of the river,” Heisler said, noting the city has obtained a similar easement for related work in Gladstone’s Meldrum Bar Park.

Lake Oswego is the managing partner in the arrangement with Tigard to build more than $200 million in projects spanning four cities.

Lake Oswego’s water comes from an intake facility on the Clackamas River in Gladstone and cuts under the Willamette River to reach the treatment plant in West Linn, with the final treated product piped north. Upgrading and upsizing that infrastructure requires replacing old facilities and adding new ones, such as a new reservoir in Lake Oswego and new pump station in Tigard.

Unlike when Lake Oswego’s existing pipeline was trenched through the West Linn park to the treatment plant decades ago, the new one will tunnel underground, with the only disturbance happening on properties just north of the park, Heisler said. Even with construction happening on those properties, officials plan to keep an extra park entrance at the end of Mapleton Drive open to pedestrians during the work.

The water partnership has also agreed to conduct restoration work at the park, in part because the state wanted Lake Oswego to show it would provide an “overwhelming benefit” to offset any disturbance of its property, Heisler said.

Additional conditions of the agreement with the Oregon parks department require Lake Oswego to cover the state’s legal costs should anyone challenge whether the easements violate property restrictions of an area subdivision. And Lake Oswego will have to acquire the easements on park property through an eminent domain process in court.

According to a memo to the council from City Attorney David Powell, officials should consider the court action to be a “friendly condemnation,” meaning the state has agreed to not fight the lawsuit. Using eminent domain would extinguish potential claims based on Mary S. Young’s deed restrictions, affording extra protection to the state and water partnership, Powell wrote.

The agreement actually involves three parcels of state-owned land by the Willamette River: one deeded to the state by Mary S. Young and two just outside of the park that are within the boundaries of the Maple Grove subdivision, where neighbors have fought plans to expand Lake Oswego’s drinking water infrastructure to serve both Lake Oswego and Tigard.

According to the new agreement, the city will pay $684 to the state as compensation for subsurface easements in the park.

The state has agreed to grant easements on parcels outside of the park that won’t be a part of the eminent domain action.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be legal activity in response. The city will defend the state against any claims based on the rules of the Maple Grove plat, although Lake Oswego’s plan to run a subsurface pipeline through the properties appears to be in compliance with plat restrictions, according to Powell.

According to historical information from Lake Oswego, Mary Hoadly Scarborough Young, a well-connected and well-heeled owner of an Oswego Lake estate in the 1930s, bought the land south of Lake Oswego as a gift for her husband, who reportedly at first rejected it but eventually considered using the property for a riverfront estate with a shooting range, tennis courts and equestrian trails. That plan never came to fruition, and in her will Young deeded the acreage to the state of Oregon with the stipulation that it be kept in as natural a state as possible.

As the story goes, she chose to give the gift to the state over her hometown out of spite. Young, the owner of a red Ford Thunderbird, was angry over a speeding ticket from a Lake Oswego police officer. The park bearing her name opened in 1973.

The Mary S. Young easements are among the last needed for the partnership’s work, although the initiative continues to face legal issues.

Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals has not yet issued a decision on a challenge to West Linn’s approval of Lake Oswego’s water treatment plant expansion. In addition, the water partnership still faces a legal challenge of Lake Oswego’s move to use all of its water rights.

In the case of Mary S. Young State Park, Lake Oswego Mayor Kent Studebaker said the agreement to defend the state over easement issues is just part of the overall process, and he doesn’t expect the city will face any legal challenges.

“Life is full of surprises so you never know,” he said following the council meeting this week. “But I think the chances are pretty slim.”

Kara Hansen can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 107. Follow her on Twitter, @LOreporter.

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