By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Feds again rebuff Wallace Bridge

Known as Wallace Bridge, the project is the brainchild of J.W. Millegan and his development company, Carlton LLC.

Ronald Alvarado, the agency's state conservationist for Oregon, declared Millegan's latest proposal a non-starter. In a statement released Friday, he said it had “already been decided, subjected to appeal and a final determination … by the director of the National Appeals Division (NAD) for the United States Department of Agriculture.”

Carlton LLC resubmitted its request for modification of the federal conservation easement on portions of the property last month. In the latest request, Millegan noted he now owns the property outright, which was a point of contention earlier when he only had it under option.

He also took note of a 2013 decision by a NAD hearings officer that temporarily reversed the original NRCS rejection. That decision was overturned by the NAD director on appeal.

In his letter in response, Alvarado said that even with its new ownership status, Carlton LLC had no right to modify the easement. “It is in NRCS discretion whether to consider a request to modify a warranty easement deed,” he said.

In its new filing, Carlton LLC included a favorable August 2013 study by ECONorthwest.

Nonetheless, Alvarado told Millegan, “Your modification proposal … is fundamentally the same as the original request that NRCS has already reviewed and a decision rendered. No further consideration or decision will be made.

He went on to note, "There are no appeal rights associated with your request.”

Millegan said Monday that his team is meeting to discuss a formal response. He said he is still hoping political support from state and federal officials will turn the trick, saying such intervention elsewhere has helped parties acquire easement modifications.

“There was new information in the resubmission,” Millegan said, including the ECONorthwest study, which relies on the NRCS’ own methodology. He said, "It clearly states that the easement modification proposal benefits their (NRCS) program and the environment.”

He also complained that NRCS representatives have never visited the site for an in-person analysis, despite earlier promises.

Loren Unruh, NRCS spokesperson in Portland, responded to Millegan's Monday comments by saying federal law and NRCS policy require determination of whether a modification request addresses a “compelling public need, which is defined as public health and safety and protection of T&E species.” And he said, “As this is a modification for a private venue, it does not meet this initial criteria.”

Millegan's position is that bolstering the West Valley economy, staggered from years of recession, meets the compelling need requirement.


KLYC Radio

Your tax dollars not at work again. Everyone we talk to about this story sees it as a win win for the environment and for jobs. The NRCS answer of not meeting the "initial criteria" is just another indication they simply don't want to do this easement modification. One has to ask what is so important in this current thistle overgrown piece of land they are willing to doggedly hang on to it no matter what. KLYC has only talked to three people in the last three months that agree with the NRCS. Everyone else doesn't agree with them, but feel powerless to effect change.

Robert Lee

I believe this process, unlike a lot of government processes is working perfectly. A government agency isn't being influenced by someone just because they have money or influence.

The easement was put on three owners ago and they're intentionally designed to not be removed or altered unless, as the article clearly states, “compelling public need, which is defined as public health and safety and protection of T&E species.” A millionaire wanting a horse facility does not meet these requirements in any way.

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