HERMISTON - Developers Roy Woolliams and Gerald Christian received approval from the county Wednesday to continue with their development of more than 300 houses in a critical groundwater area, so long as the city of Hermiston provides Columbia River water for the homes.

The county's permission came after the Board of Commissioners agreed to expand the urban growth boundary around the city of Hermiston. The move transferred the former C & B Livestock Feedlot property, nearly 400 acres, from sole county jurisdiction to joint management by the city and the county.

The city intends to formally annex the property, said its attorney, Michael Robinson. The city promised the commissioners it would supply the housing development water via the Columbia River rather than water from the four deep basalt wells the city operates. The commitment by the city was not made a condition of the commissioners' decision, but the city will be legally held to its promise, Chairman Dennis Doherty said.

Kent Madison, the developer who protested the development on the grounds it could potentially deplete the area's water supply, said he was happy with the outcome.

"As long as the city government is comfortable with the commitment, I'm comfortable," he said.

Madison said he had always been in support of the housing, which he, like many other Hermiston business leaders, felt was needed.

The homes that will be built around the 18-hole golf course now under construction, will be priced at around $200,000, the developers said. The course is south of Hermiston, north of Feedville Road and east of Highway 207.

The plan had widespread support in the city, which is short on high-income homes, city leaders said.

But Madison, who also chairs the county's groundwater task force, said the city could not draw more water from its wells without impacting others. His contention was supported by Mike Ladd, region manager for the Oregon Water Resources Department, who testified Wednesday that any more pumping of groundwater by the city would likely mean a cutback on the water use of landowners outside the city.

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