The Sitka Wetlands Story
Sitka Wetlands Story begins with the writing of a pre-proposal in February 2009. This proposal was submitted to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB). It asked them to request federal Coastal Wetland Funds for Phase 2 of a two phase project to acquire land along the north edge of the Nehalem Bay and also provide funds to match the federal grant. We received approval to submit a full grant proposal to OWEB in March 2009.
The Lower Nehalem Community Trust had previously worked with OWEB in developing a Phase 1 Coastal Wetlands grant proposal for other lands along the north edge of the estuary and therefore we were able to use the earlier grant proposal as a basis for creating the new proposal. Gareth Ferdun took responsibility for drafting changes for the federal grant proposal. The document was reviewed and approved by OWEB who submitted the proposal to the federal government in the early summer of 2009.
Georgenne Ferdun and Lorraine Ortiz had began work in December of 2008 on a fundraising plan to obtain the local match that would be needed for both phases of the acquisition of land along the northern edge of the estuary. They put together a portfolio describing the project and arranged a series of house parties to explain the project and solicit contributions.
We received notification that the federal government had approved funding of Phase 2 in December 2009. A second grant proposal was needed to obtain matching funds from OWEB. Gareth also developed this grant proposal which was submitted in the fall of 2009. In general the grant proposals required us to describe:
the project timeline,
the Ecological Benefits of the Project,
the Partners that Support the Project,
the Effect of the Project on the Local and Regional Community and
the physical state of the property, including any current roads, structures, and legal encumbrances and their approximate location on the property.
Required attachments included:
Maps and photographs
Letters of support
An Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Review Team visited the site in November 2009. OWEB gave tentative approval of our application and requested that we begin work on “due diligence”. This required us to:
Obtain a land appraisal
Carefully review all easements on the land to determine how they would affect the conservation values of the land
Determine if there were any hazardous waste problems.
Meanwhile Trust Board member Nancy Chase began discussion with the current land owners and arranged for the land appraisal. The owners lived in England and were traveling during this period. It proved to be hard to maintain good communications.
The appraised value of the land is dependent upon how much of the land can be used for houses and how much is wetlands and can not be developed. Doug Ray, Barbara Rippey and Barry Marshall helped us determine where the wetlands were located. The appraisal of the value of the land came in at significantly less than the owners were asking for the land. This put the trust in a difficult position since the funding agencies would only give us grant funds based on the appraisal and not the asking price.
The owners appeared reluctant to reduce their asking price. On the other hand OWEB was concerned that the ecological value of the land was not great enough to justify paying the appraised value for the land.
We discovered quite a few easements on the land including sewer, electrical, and water. Since these were all underground they were not considered to affect the land’s ecological value. At the request of OWEB staff Doug Firstbrook led a group that removed a fence that was not properly positioned on the property line. OWEB was concerned about a road easement on part of the land but it became apparent that this easement would have no value.
Over the course of about six months we reached an agreement with OWEB to increase the educational value of the parcel by placing a LNCT Nature Teaching Trail on the land and reached an agreement with the landowners to reduce their asking price to equal the appraised value.
OWEB created a conservation easement, then held a public hearing in Nehalem to provide an opportunity for the community to comment on the conservation easement. The Conservation Easement was put into final form in November 2010. Funds for the acquisition of the land were provided to the Trust in January 2011.
This is an example of all of the work that needs to be done to get funds for land acquisition. LNCT staff and volunteers spent hundreds of hours of time doing the work required to obtain this land.
Most of the work was done by the Trust’s all volunteer lands committee, Nancy Chase, Georgenne Ferdun and Gareth Ferdun. Overall the completion of the project took two years.