Democrat Herald: Maps mix-up stopped Millersburg home building

From the Albany Democrat Herald:

“Stop work” orders on two Millersburg subdivisions under construction have highlighted confusion over federal wetland maps, which many Oregon cities and counties rely on to issue building permits.

The Oregon Department of State Lands contends the federal wetland maps are incomplete as they didn’t assess agricultural areas.

Subdivisions in Millersburg are being built on former farm land.

“One gets a false negative when you look at the map. The map didn’t show anything, but the map didn’t try to do anything on those types of lands,” said Kirk Jarvie, southern region manager for DSL’s aquatic resources management program.

Jarvie added that developers appeared to have filled wetlands without permits in the Eagle Nest and Woods Estate subdivisions, which could bring nearly 100 homes to Millersburg.

State cease-and-desist orders were issued on April 7 and April 11, after streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure had been installed.

“We do completely understand that they went to the city of Millersburg and the county to get their approvals,” Jarvie said.

The scenario is uncommon, but occasionally happens, he said.

Oregon communities were supposed to develop local wetlands inventories, but that was more of a suggestion than a firm rule. Many never went through the process, likely because the studies are expensive and there’s limited grant funding available, he added.

Linn County and Millersburg don’t have local wetland inventories. The city of Albany has local wetland maps.

Millersburg City Manager Steve Hasson said that the maps mix-up is probably a statewide issue.

Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist and state Rep. Andy Olson met with DSL on Wednesday morning to discuss solutions.

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