February 03, 2011

Wyden, Merkley Reintroduce Bills to Transfer Federal Property to La Pine and Wallowa

Washington, D.C. – Continuing to look for ways to help two of Oregon’s hardest hit areas grow their economies, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) reintroduced two bills today that will allow La Pine and Wallowa to have access to hundreds of acres of federal land for community attractions, preserve their history and improve their infrastructure.  

“These bills give the communities the tools they need for economic growth,” Wyden said. “Where tourism is a money-maker, these bills help provide the land to build a rodeo and develop an important community center. Where infrastructure improvements are needed, these bills allow for the land to expand sewage operations or build a library or public open spaces. The land transfers in these bills will improve the quality of life for those in the community and bring in more economic drivers.”

“These bills will promote economic development and assist in revitalizing our communities,” said Merkley. “With our economy still struggling and so many Oregonians out of work, it is vitally important that we do everything we can to meet the needs of local communities so they can make investments in their future.”

Under the La Pine Land Conveyance Act, the County of Deschutes will receive a 150-acre conveyance of land currently under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. The county will be allowed to use the land to develop rodeo grounds meant to boost tourism. The land will also allow for the future development of ball fields and parks and recreation facilities.

A separate 750-acre conveyance will be transferred to Deschutes County to be used for better management of wastewater by the sewer district. Future expansion of the operations of the town’s wastewater treatment plant has languished for years due to lack of space. The BLM property – which is completely inside city limits – will allow for that expansion to mitigate septic systems that are generating elevated groundwater nitrate levels. A third parcel of approximately 10-acres will be conveyed to the City of La Pine for the use of the library or city open spaces.

The Wallowa Forest Service Compound Conveyance Act will transfer the Forest Service Ranger Station to the City of Wallowa to create cultural center recognizing the important cultural and historic aspects of the community. The City of Wallowa will work with a non-profit group to develop the center which is expected to serve as a tourist destination and will preserve the unique cultural heritage of the community.  

Previous versions of both bills had been marked up by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. These bills incorporate those changes.