By Associated Press • 

Lehman Hot Springs returns to familiar hands

PENDLETON — The troubled Lehman Hot Springs resort is back with the family that owned it for much of the previous century.

Fancho “Fee” Stubblefield of Amity bought the 242-acre site near Ukiah last year for $1.25 million. That's roughly twice what the previous owner paid in a 2010 foreclosure auction, according to Umatilla County records.

The county noted of the sale: “Buyer feels they paid over market value for personal reasons.”

Those “personal reasons” are clear. Stubblefield's grandfather, the first Fancho Stubblefield, paid $500 cash and took on a $6,500 mortgage for the property in July 1925. He sold the resort in 1943 and got it back a few years later.

The family sold it again and got it back again in the 1970s, and Fancho Stubblefield II sold it in 1988 when the economy soured.

In an interview with the East Oregonian newspaper, Stubblefield said he worked on the lodge as a teen, when his father owned it, and his feelings run deep for the hot springs located in the timberlands of the Blue Mountains.

“There's a lot of history there,” Stubblefield said.

But the recent history has been all bad.

State authorities cited Lehman Hot Springs for illegal wastewater discharges seven times between 1995 and 2006, and the resort has been closed since mid-2009, when a judge ordered former owner John Patrick Lucas to cease operations because of unsafe sewage lagoons.

Lucas was eventually charged with polluting the water. He pleaded guilty last March and is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 29 in Pendleton.

Stubblefield said he is paying “a fortune” to correct the problems. Much of that work involved replacing the plastic liner in one of the two nearly acre-sized sewage lagoons.

Project manager Dan Upshaw said 20 workers took three days in late fall to install the new liner. Crews used a special machine to weld together seams of 26-foot-wide rolls of plastic sheeting and tested the strength of the material before each weld.

“This is not just throwing a plastic liner in a hole,” Upshaw said. “These lagoons are really a big deal ... we're addressing issues that have to be addressed, there's no doubt about the lagoon and the sanitation issue has to be corrected.”

With winter here, Upshaw has been “getting stuff up to snuff” around the rest of the site, from fixing a leaking roof to replacing broken water pipes. When weather allows, contractors will assess the status of the second lagoon and build drainage for overflow and storm water for both lagoons.

Besides repairing the property, Upshaw and Stubblefield are trying to repair ties with, among others, the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Umatilla County Public Health Department.

“It's one of those things where you have a lot of history with different agencies that haven't been real positive relationships,” Upshaw said.


Information from: East Oregonian,

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