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.