Resolution expected on roadwork projects

The Oregon Department of Transportation predicts that within a year it could resolve long-standing issues over land purchased for open space using federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grants that was later used for road projects.

Any government body that converts open space or park land that was purchased with conservation grants is required to replace that property with land of equivalent value.

ODOT has been under pressure from the National Park Service to get the issues resolved, and the state agency says it is working to do just that.

Shelley Snow, a spokeswoman with ODOT, said her agency is working to find replacement properties for about 2 acres of open space now occupied by the north and south Medford interchanges, as well as an intersection at Highway 99 and Crater Lake Highway.

In addition, more open space is slated to be taken out when the Fern Valley interchange is built in Phoenix.

Land and Water Conservation Fund grants helped purchase the land around the interchanges for the Bear Creek Greenway.

The National Park Service said the conservation grants require that land swaps be completed before using the open space for another purpose.

Snow, in an email response to the Mail Tribune, said ODOT is still trying to determine what open-space areas were displaced in order to find a replacement.

ODOT will conduct an environmental analysis of the land that has been taken out — and is scheduled to be taken out in the future — Snow said.

She added that ODOT and Park Service officials are still working out an agreement on how that environmental analysis will be conducted.

Snow said the National Park Service released new guidelines on how to deal with land swaps and other mitigation issues in 2008.

"So, there's a lot of learning that had to take place," she wrote.

So far, ODOT has successfully completed two property transfers in the Eugene/Springfield area using the conservation rules.

"Now, they are working on the properties in Medford," she said.

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