UMATILLA
City signs agreements with Army Corp of Engineers

The Umatilla Old Town site was closed to the public since the 1960s and only recently reopened for tours.

The city of Umatilla took another step toward its goal of opening the Old Town Site to the public, authorizing the mayor to sign an agreement for non-native plant removal there.

The agreement is with the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the land, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which has an interest in the burial site and former Umatilla village site.

City manager Bob Ward told the council Tuesday that normally it would be the Army Corps of Engineers’ responsibility to handle the eradication process, but the city volunteered to take the lead on vegetation management for the next five years because the Corps is “bureaucracy heavy and revenue light.”

“One of the primary concerns for both the tribes and the city is invasive species, and that has been a concern of the Corps of Engineers too,” Ward said.

The land was the site of the original city of Umatilla before predictions of flooding from construction of the John Day Dam forced the city to move. Before that it was a prehistoric settlement and later an Indian village and burial site.

Ward said the burial site will be the city and tribes’ primary focus to start. Other areas of the old town site/Umatilla village will be more complicated because “the wildlife habitat down there people have come to enjoy is primarily invasive species.”

Ward said it will take six months to a year for the vegetation management permit to be approved.

On Tuesday the council also authorized the mayor to sign a second agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers, in this case a renewal of a five-year lease of the Third Street soccer field property.

The city is looking to add a second soccer field there and wanted to upgrade to a longer lease before going ahead with improvements. However, Ward told the council after meeting with the Corps he felt it was better to stick with the five-year lease because a longer time frame would open the property to a right of first refusal from another government agency.

He said adding a second soccer field would also require additional parking, restrooms and an extension of the irrigation system already in place.

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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