In tandem with the Riverwalk project to create a promenade along the Willamette River to the falls, planners envision a habitat restoration effort that would rough up the artificially straight river banks, replace invasive species with natives, and circulate water through the now-stagnant Upper Basin, likely by flowing it through canals in the site.

“Restoring that habitat to the degree that we can is a really important value,” said Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette.

Real estate broker John McKay said he used to do inspections on the site decades ago and recalls the “horrible” chemicals and industrial byproducts.

“They pretty much just dumped everything into the river,” McKay said.

For better or for worse, that’s not really a lasting problem at the site. There is very little soil there; it is mostly concrete and basalt. During floods — for example, the record-breaking 1996 flood — everything washes downstream.

“In fact, it was so clean, the (Environmental Protection Agency) was worried they wouldn’t be able to help us,” Collette said.

The potential liability issues this poses were part of the reason the governments involved did not want to buy the property even though its $2.2 million price tag would have been a small percentage of the overall budget.

George Heidgerken’s Falls Legacy, LLC., is unlikely to have that problem because of its limited liability.

See more on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project’s habitat restoration efforts in the Aug. 14 edition of the Sustainable Life section.

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