Bill opens options for research center
By Eric Mortenson
If booming Hermiston continues to grow and housing developments press to the property line, Oregon State University wants the flexibility to sell its ag research center south of the city and move to open ground.
Legislation approved by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee would change federal law to allow that. Right now, if OSU changed the use of its Agricultural Research & Extension Center — by selling or otherwise — ownership of the property and buildings would revert to the federal government. That’s because the U.S. Bureau of Land Management granted the land to the state in 1954 with the provision that it always be used for ag research.
Station Director Phil Hamm said OSU has no plan to sell the station property, but revising the legislation would provide options later. In January, seeking access to city water so it could irrigate more land, the station sought to be annexed. The Hermiston City Council approved the annexation of 168 acres. Hamm said the nearest cluster of development is about a mile away, and Hermiston continues to grow.
Hamm acknowledged that buying land for a new station — about 250 acres — would be expensive. Building new labs and other infrastructure would add to the cost of moving, he said.
“But our ground at their doorstep would by then be very valuable,” Hamm said. “We could sell it for a high amount.”
An OSU news release credited U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., with spearheading the revision through the Natural Resources Committee. The resolution has been forwarded to the full House of Representatives for consideration.