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.
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.