Deschutes County, OSU-Cascades eye land swap

College wants buffer zone against possible contamination from old landfill waste

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin

Oregon State University-Cascades Campus officials are working with Deschutes County to trade small portions of land at the future four-year university site in west Bend, wary of any potential soil contamination from the county’s nearby demolition landfill, which stored old construction material and waste for 25 years.

The exchange would be relatively small, covering about 1.5 acres of OSU-Cascades’ planned 56-acre property between Southwest Mt. Washington Drive and Century Drive.

But school officials say the swap would give OSU-Cascades a buffer against construction, commercial and industrial waste seeping onto their property.

The landfill site was active from 1972 to 1997.

After OSU-Cascades selected the property just south of the landfill, an environmental site assessment last summer identified some possible soil encroachment from the landfill site onto part of the school’s property, though not at a level to raise serious red flags.

In this case, soil encroachment means some trace elements of the old landfill waste is still present under the earth. There’s some possibility the material could affect parts of the OSU-Cascades site.

To resolve the issue, OSU-Cascades wants 0.79 acres of Deschutes County-owned land running along the northern edge of the east half of the school property, according to Kelly Sparks, the school’s associate vice president for finance and strategic planning. The move would let OSU-Cascades address any contamination there and use the land to separate the school property from the county land.

After the summer site assessment, “We got together with the county to talk about the best ways to deal with it,” Sparks said of the landfill encroachment issue. “Bringing the property in around the north border not only makes sure the encroached-upon land is not on any of our property, but it makes sure the county is able to do environmental monitoring on its property safely.”

In return, the school would give Deschutes County 0.79 acres on the west half of its property.

Deschutes County commissioners have to sign off on the lot line adjustments before the swap becomes final. Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the exchange on Wednesday. County leaders said the swap could clear some uncertainty about the campus location, without any real cost to Deschutes County.

“If it’s something that helps (OSU-Cascades) move forward, I’m supportive of it,” County Commissioner Tony DeBone said.

OSU-Cascades plans to start construction on its 56-acre campus with a 146,000-square-foot “living and learning center,” combining classrooms and dormitories, on the east side of its property. School officials plan on opening the building in time for the 2015-16 academic year.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com