Willamette Water Supply System: Massive Project Will Result in Significant Takings

Willamette Water Supply System: Massive Project Will Result in Significant Takings

The $1.3 billion Willamette Water Supply System is a massive project which will result in the taking of parts of a significant number of properties across the western part of the Metro area.

The Project is a joint effort of the Tualatin Valley Water District, the City of Hillsboro, and the City of Beaverton.  In addition to a water intake facility on the Willamette River, a water filtration facility near Sherwood, and water storage tanks on Cooper Mountain near Beaverton, the Project will result in the installation of new water lines across over 30 miles. The government has begun taking private property in support of the Project and has commenced construction.  Many takings are being accomplished in conjunction with road widening projects.

Additional information on the Project can be found at the Project website, located here, including the Project map, which is located here.

The government is taking and will take right of way for the Project in the form of easements.  These easements will consist primarily of permanent easements for the water lines themselves and temporary easements for construction activities.  The easements will allow the government to construct, maintain, access, repair, and replace the water lines.  The easements will also prevent property owners from using their property in any way that would interfere with the water lines and their operation.

The government will try to first acquire these easements by “agreement.”  Through a right of way agent, the government will present a property owner with a modest offer of compensation and a form of easement agreement.  Not surprisingly, the form of the agreement will strongly favor the government to the detriment of property owner, and the offer of “compensation” will be lacking in fundamental ways.  If the government cannot reach “agreement” with the property owner, it will then exercise its power of eminent domain and take the easements on the terms it offered, with “just compensation” to be determined by a jury.

To learn more about what to do when the government comes knocking, see my earlier blog post here.


Division Transit Project: TriMet Filing Condemnation Lawsuits

Division Transit Project:  TriMet Filing Condemnation Lawsuits

From all indications, TriMet has begun filing condemnation actions against property owners with whom it has not reached “agreement” on its Division Transit Project.

The $175 million Division Transit Project calls for the permanent and temporary taking of parts of over 140 properties along the 15-mile Division Street corridor from downtown Portland to Gresham for the purpose of TriMet operating a bus rapid transit line.  In addition to taking property for road widening and related work, the Project will result in the construction of approximately 40 stations specially designed for the 60-foot articulated rapid transit buses that will operate on the line. Service on the new line is set to commence in 2022.

Additional information on the Project can be found at TriMet’s Project page, located here, and Metro’s Project page, located here.

In road widening projects such as this one, which result primarily in partial “strip takings,” the often-found fundamental tension between the government’s approach and just compensation is the government’s propensity to ignore or minimize damages to the value of the property remaining after the taking.  Unfortunately for property owners, such damages can be significant, even if the strip taken is relatively small.  In addition to factors such as an increased proximity to travel lanes and attendant noise, property owners can be faced with adverse impacts to access, parking, on-site vehicle maneuvering, and conformity with set-backs and other development requirements.  In certain situations, the highest and best use of the property can take a hit, potentially resulting in very significant damages.

Fortunately, property owners have a constitutional right not to have their just compensation minimized.  Vindicating that constitutional right, however, requires action and standing up to the government.


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