Historic agreement with Grand Ronde on Blue Heron Mill
In a momentous agreement last month, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and DEQ came to terms on a clean-up plan for the former Blue Heron Mill in Oregon City -- a first-of-its-kind deal that will allow the tribes to move forward with plans for the site. The 23-acre now-closed paper mill and power plant is located at the base of the Willamette Falls, an area historically occupied by the Grand Ronde and of immense cultural significance.
“This is a historic day for the Grand Ronde Tribe and our people,” Cheryle A. Kennedy, chairwoman for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, said in a statement. “Since 1855 the government has worked to disconnect our people from our homelands. Today, we’re reclaiming a piece of those lands and resurrecting our role as caretakers to Willamette Falls — a responsibility left to us by our ancestors.”
The Tribes’ vision for the site includes redevelopment that is culturally accountable and economically viable benefit for the region. This may include fishing and eeling activities, traditional tribal practices and ceremonies, tribal offices, meeting spaces, a service center, commercial development, an interpretive center, and tribal art installations.
This is DEQ’s first Prospective Purchaser Agreement with a tribal community. The agreement gives the purchaser clear direction for how to clean up the site and, in turn, limits the purchaser’s future liability. At its core, it is an agreement between the two parties that says they will work together to develop a scope of work for cleanup, followed by specific work plans to complete the scope of work, and a schedule for the work to be completed.
Much of the industrial history that caused contamination has already been explored. Until the closure of Blue Heron in 2011, site operations included flour, saw, and woolen mills, tannery operations, foundries, city waterworks, and an electrical generation plant. Numerous environmental investigations performed on the property have raised concerns about asbestos, lead-based paint, electrical and hydraulic fluids, mercury, and petroleum.
During the consent order process, the scope of work was outlined and will become more detailed as DEQ and the Grand Ronde work together. Currently, the scope of work includes initial actions for the Grand Ronde to take, identifies high priority cleanup areas where there are known significant environmental concerns, and other potential cleanup areas where further investigation is required. If you want to learn more about this project or PPAs in general, get in touch with PPA guru, Cheyenne Chapman who’s located in the Portland Office.