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Hooley Pushes For River Development

INDEPENDENCE -- Oregon Congresswoman Darlene Hooley's schedule called for her to visit Independence on Tuesday as part of a two-day riverboat tour to unveil proposed federal legislation for economic d

INDEPENDENCE -- Oregon Congresswoman Darlene Hooley's schedule called for her to visit Independence on Tuesday as part of a two-day riverboat tour to unveil proposed federal legislation for economic development and natural restoration along the Willamette River.

Under the "Willamette River United Act," the Department of Interior would make $10 million available annually during the next decade for historic reservation, natural conservation and development projects in communties on the river.

Independence was one of six stops on the river tour between Eugene and Portland.

"The Willamette River is the heart and soul of Oregon and the lifeblood of this valley," said Hooley, a Democrat who represents the state's 5th congressional district, in a news release.

In a presentation set for the amphitheater in Riv-erview Park after press time last night, Hooley was to discuss how the bill could facilitate development in Independence and improve river access. A story recapping that discussion will appear in next week's Itemizer-Observer.

The bill will be announced on the House floor in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Sept. 10. Joan Evans, a Hooley staff member, said the goal is to have it authorized by 2008.

Independence likely would pursue a grant if the bill came to fruition, said Shawn Irvine, community development technician. A potential use would be on the North Riverside Development, he said.

Officials submitted preliminary drawings of that project to Hooley last December as she was still researching the legislation, as an example of what could be created with the funding.

"The Willamette River has been the focal point of the revitalization efforts here during the last 10 years," Irvine said. "It's an incredible resource that most cities don't have ... anything that helps us further enhance the river and the city's connection to the river will pay off in terms of increased livability for our citizens."

The development, envisioned on nearly 67 acres off the Willamette in the northeast corner of the city, entails new athletic fields and a boat ramp. A private developer would construct residential and commercial buildings on the upper elevation off Highway 51.

City Council is expected to review the final conceptual design at its Sept. 14 meeting.

According to the proposal, the federal government would work with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to administer grants, which will require a 35 percent match.

Watershed restoration, recreation and tourism projects and historic preservation are among the eligible uses.

The bill would also authorize partnerships among state, local and tribal entities to carry out the objectives.

The Willamette "has sustained and nourished Oregonians throughout our rich history and will be preserved for future generations by encouraging communities ... to reconnect with the river," Hooley said.

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