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City Council Decides to Proceed with Bull Run Land Exchange

Portland City Council voted last week to approve the proposed Bull Run Land Exchange through an Exchange Agreement.

This is a land-for-land exchange between the Mt. Hood National Forest and the City of Portland that conveys approximately 2,890 acres of National Forest System land to the City in exchange for approximately 2,200 acres of City-owned lands, all within the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit. The exchange affects approximately 5 percent of the lands within the unit.

The proposal consolidates City ownership to lands surrounding the two water supply reservoirs and associated water infrastructure. The Forest Service will acquire forested uplands that the City originally purchased from private landowners, mostly in the late 1800s and early 1900s. An independent, professional land appraisal determined that the financial value of the properties proposed for exchange was equal, and therefore no payment for lands for either party will occur.

The exchange does not change management of the lands. Both City-owned lands and the Forest Service lands in Bull Run are managed in partnership and for the primary purpose of protecting the water source of the City of Portland.

One of the immediate benefits of the exchange is savings of an annual payment of approximately $150,000 that the City makes to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission—essentially to "rent" federal land for a hydropower purpose. The annual payment is not required if the licensed operation is located on City-owned land. The longer-term benefits for both the City and the Forest Service are to simplify the administration of land boundaries inside the management unit.

Next Steps

This Council action committed the City to proceed with finalizing the land transaction, culminating in the recording of deeds. Finalizing the land transaction will take approximately 12 months after the Exchange Agreement is signed.

Background Information

The City of Portland and the Mt. Hood National Forest agreed in February 2010 to pursue a land exchange. The initial public scoping period for the land exchange process ended on Sept. 30, 2010. The public comment period for the 2015 Amended Agreement to Initiate (a document that contained additional details about the exchange) ended on March 25, 2016.

The draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document (a Preliminary Assessment) was made available for public review in July 2017. The Forest Service published a final Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact in March 2019. Visit the Mt. Hood National Forest website for more information on the steps leading to the current proposal.

Maps describing current land ownership and ownership after the proposed land exchange are available. The parcel legal descriptions in the Exchange Agreement correspond to the mapped parcels shown on the map at the top of this article.