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News Release
This area of Arch Cape will become a community forest protecting the watershed for north coast residents.
This area of Arch Cape will become a community forest protecting the watershed for north coast residents.
Water District in Clatsop County secures property to establish a community forest at Arch Cape (Photo) - 06/28/22

ARCH CAPE, Ore. —The Arch Cape Domestic Water Supply District realized the vision of connecting the community to its drinking-water source with the purchase of roughly 1,500 acres of forestland. The purchase, finalized in June 2022, was made possible with $5.5 million in federal funding and $250,000 in Clatsop County funding. It will establish the publicly owned Arch Cape Forest.

The district finalized the acquisition with the current owner, Ecotrust Forests II LLC, on June 9 for $4.7 million. Purchasing the watershed, which is next to both Oswald West State Park and Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, will permanently protect the source of Arch Cape’s drinking water from the headwaters to the tap. 

“The health and resilience of the surrounding forest directly controls both the quantity     and the quality of our domestic drinking water,” said Phil Chick, District Manager, Arch Cape Domestic Water Supply District. “The acquisition of the forest permits watershed management primarily for the protection of our water, while providing potential conservation, recreation, and economic benefits.”

A healthy forest with diverse streamside vegetation is vital to holding soil in place, preventing erosion, and improving downstream water quality. All of the water consumed in Arch Cape arrives first as rain falling on spruce, hemlock and cedar trees in the upper reaches of the watershed. The headlands rise nearly 3,000 feet in the two miles between the Pacific Ocean and Onion Peak, the second highest peak in Clatsop County and one of the taller peaks in the Oregon Coast Range. Ultimately, this water makes its way down Shark and Asbury creeks to be used as a community drinking water supply. 

Funding for the project came from a variety of sources, including approximately $3.5 million from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program. Another $2 million came from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) through Business Oregon.

Amy Singh, an administrator with the Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) Forest Legacy Program, explained that $3.5 million for this purchase came from the USDA Forest Service through its Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports the nationally competitive Forest Legacy Program. 

“ODF partners with the Forest Service to evaluate worthwhile projects in Oregon where local people want to keep forestlands intact to benefit their community and economy,” said Singh. “Arch Cape is a great example of how the program does that while benefitting the environment and protecting the forested character of the area.”

Business Oregon provided $2 million in funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to help secure the land. North Coast Land Conservancy (NCLC) used the land value of a portion of the Rainforest Reserve as an in-kind match to help meet requirements of the Forest Legacy grants. Remaining match requirements were met by $250,000 from Clatsop County and nearly $300,000 from community contributions.

Attorneys Greg Fullem and Janna Davydova provided legal counsel through the pro-bono program at the Portland-based firm of Schwabe, Williamson, and Wyatt.

A shared vision for the north coast

“Although the Arch Cape Forest and Rainforest Reserve are two unique projects, they have a shared vision: protecting our forest, improving water quality, and sustaining a higher quality of life for the people, plants and wildlife that inhabit the northern Oregon Coast,” said NCLC Executive Director Katie Voelke. 

The Water District will remain the owner of the property and is advised by a community advisory committee. Sustainable Northwest, a regional nonprofit, provided strategic planning and project management to the core group of local volunteers and leaders over the course of the 5-year campaign.

In 2019, representatives of the Water District board, district staff, consultants, and community members with extensive financial and timber industry experience assembled a baseline financial plan that confirmed the feasibility for the purchase and long-term management of the property. 

In 2021, a seven-member community advisory committee voted to adopt a set of forest management policies created through a dialogue with the consulting forester, Springboard Forestry, LLC. Going forward, the community advisory committee will engage the broader public before drafting a 10-year operating plan. 

“The community forest governance model ensures that local people enjoy secure and reliable access to the ecological, social, and economic benefits produced by forests,” said Ben Dair Rothfuss, Conservation Finance Senior Manager for Sustainable Northwest. “The residents and community leaders in Arch Cape volunteered hundreds of hours to make this project possible. We believe that local engagement and ownership will make for a durable and balanced outcome as the community becomes the long-term stewards of the forest.” 

The water district is currently working with NCLC and the Nuveen Natural Capital property management staff at Lewis & Clark Timberlands’ Gearhart office, with support from consulting planners at the NPS Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, to outline a thoughtful and balanced approach to public access that will allow people to enjoy the natural beauty of the forest while preserving its ecological value. 

A broad public stakeholder engagement process is set to begin in July.

For more information on the Arch Cape Forest, visit www.archcapeforest.org/ and archcapewater.org

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