The Boardman Air Force Range consists of 95,985.51 acres of land, located 5 1/2 miles southwest of Boardman, Morrow County, Oregon. The range is a 12 mile by 12 mile square, which is bounded on the north by Interstate 84 and on the south by Immigrant Road, while the eastern and western boundaries are irrigated farmlands.
The Department of the Navy currently owns the eastern half consisting of 46,722.07 acres, which it operates as an active bombing range. The Army Corps of Engineers owns 13.88 acres located in the northern section. The Portland General Electric Company is a minor property owner producing energy from a coal burning plant. Range. The Morrow Country Port Authority maintains the former airstrip and owns property along the northern boundary.
The State of Oregon owns the western half. They in turn lease a major portion to Boeing Agri-Industrial Company (BAC). BAC irrigates the soil for farming and operates a remote antenna range on the site with a primary mission of conducting tests for national security and public safety. The BAC's future testing schedule for the antenna range is currently unspecified. The future plans include expanding the irrigation to other areas at Boardman. Long-range plans are to develop the entire former BAC lease land into irrigated farmland.
A high wire mesh fence encircles both the Navy bombing range and the Boeing antenna test facility. Entry into these two areas is controlled at all times. The lower one-third segment of the bombing range is leased to local ranchers for livestock grazing. A 7 mile portion of the Oregon Trail traverses the extreme southern area of the former range.
The primary landscape feature is high plain desert with low lying vegetation. The site lies within the Columbia Basin. The northern half rises from the Columbia River at an elevation of 310 feet to a reasonably level plateau at 600 feet. The southern half located south of the Carty Reservoir is very hilly and rises to an altitude of 870 feet. Along the Columbia River, the average winter temperature is 37 F and the average summer temperature is 73 F. Precipitation between April and September averages two inches while seasonal snowfall averages nine inches along the Columbia River and 17 inches at higher elevations. Surface water in the area consists of the Columbia River to the north, the Umatilla River to the northeast, the intermittent stream in Six-Mile Canyon, and lesser streams in the south which end in sediment and fractured rock. The Carty Reservoir was formed by damming the streams in Four-Mile and Six-Mile Canyon and obtaining additional water from a well and pipelines.
A directive was issued in 1941 to acquire lands for the precision bombing range Boardman Air Force Range, initially known as Arlington Bombing Range. From 1941 to 1943, the War Department acquired 58,662.90 acres of fee; 37,320.31 acres of Public Domain Lands (PDL); and an easement for 2.30 acres. This totals 95,985.51 acres. From 1941 to 1945, The U.S. Army Air Corps used the range for precision bombing. Walla Walla Army Air Base used the site for air-to-ground gunnery practice. After World War II, the U.S. Army categorized the site as surplus land.
In 1948, the Air Force withdrew the lands from surplus and continued using the site as a precision bombing range until 1960. Between 1952 and 1956, the 57 th Air Division, Fairchild Air Force Base, assumed the responsibility, control and utilization of the Boardman Range. The Department of Defense (DOD) improvements to the site consisted of approximately 20 buildings, a flight strip, gunnery range, and numerous target sites. The Air Force declared the entire site as excess on 11 August 1960.
On 22 November 1960, the Air Force transferred 58,372.90 acres fee and 2.30 acres easement to the Department of the Navy, 37,320.31 acres to the Department of Interior, and 290 acres to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE). The initial transfer divided the range into a checkerboard pattern that was not conducive for use as a modern bombing range. After several years of negotiating with the State of Oregon, a decision was reached to split the former range into two halves. The Navy consolidated its operation on the eastern 47,722.07 acre half, which they are currently utilizing as a high speed aerial bombing range; the Navy currently uses 37,320.31 acres Public Domain Lands (PDL). The western half of the site ultimately ended up being jointly owned by the State of Oregon, Portland General Electric, and Morrow County. The 290 acres controlled by the COE was eventually decreased to 13.88 acres with the remaining 276.12 acres being transferred to the State of Oregon.
Since 1978, the Navy's 4,750-acre Boardman Research Natural Area has been the site of extensive studies on native prairie wildlife and grassland restoration strategies.
In 2000 federal and state wildlife agencies and conservation organizations initiated discussions with the US Navy about options for ensuring long-term protection of habitats on the 50,000-acre site, which is adjacent to the state's Boeing lease lands.
Boardman Remote Test Facility
Space Age Industrial Park
Military RCS systems are located at White Sands Missile Range, the Navy's Junction Branch facility, and Patuxent River's Dynamic Range. Other, non-military outdoor range facilities are located at Lockheed Martin's Helendale range, Boeing's Boardman and Grey Butte ranges, and Northrop-Grumman's Tejon Range. Radar Cross Section (RCS) systems are used for range operations (testing and measurement). These systems have tuning ranges that encompass the 216-220 MHz band and are capable of operations up to 928 MHz. Many of these operations are authorized on a case-by-case, non-interference basis.
During 2001 radar cross section tests of the RAH-66 Comanche at Boardman, Ore., were successful, validating design features.
In 1963, the State of Oregon leased approximately 94,000 acres of land near Boardman to the Boeing Company. for aerospace development and testing. The 77-year lease expires in 2040. While some aerospace development has occurred, the original plans for a rocket park never materialized; the land is still zoned "Space Age/Industrial," although agricultural use is allowed by the county under this designation.
In 1974, Boeing subleased the property to Boeing Agri-Industrial Company, for farming and ranching development. Between 1971 and 1985, Boeing acquired nine water right permits to irrigate 63,000 acres of the site. To date, about 28,000 acres have been developed by Boeing Agri-Industrial Co. and its sub-lessees. In 1995, Boeing subleased 35,600 acres of the remaining undeveloped acres to Inland Land Co., LLC.
In 1996 Oregon Trout, WaterWatch of Oregon, and Northwest Environmental Defense Center filed suit in Marion Circuit Court April 10, challenging the proposed development by Boeing Agri-Industrial Company of irrigated farmland along the Columbia River. Conservation groups have opposed the Inland development because it conflicted with regional efforts to restore Columbia Basin streamflows for endangered sockeye and chinook salmon. In court and before the Oregon Water Resources Department (WRD), the groups challenged the legality of Boeing's water permits.
In April 1999 the Oregon Water Resources Department issued proposed orders extending seven of nine water right permits for farm development outside of Boardman. The permit extensions, requested by the Boeing Agri-Industrial Company and Inland Land Company, authorize up to 15,103 acres of new farmland development and reflect an agreement between the state and project developers to protect important fish and wildlife resources while maintaining the potential for development of additional areas. Nearly 4,400 additional acres of new farmland are now being developed on the site under previously authorized permit extensions.
In May 2000 Boeing sold its Boeing Agri-Industrial Company business, including its 93,000 acre land lease, located along the Columbia River near Boardman, Ore., to agribusiness firm R. D. Offutt Company - Northwest of Fargo, ND. Boeing will continue to lease back a portion of the property from R. D. Offutt Company - Northwest to support on-going programs.
Threemile Canyon Farms
On January 21, 2000, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission listed the Washington Ground Squirrel as an endangered species under the Oregon Endangered Species Act (OESA). The Washington Ground Squirrel has a very restricted range and is a secretive species. During the last 25 years, the species has experienced a significant decline. The last remaining stronghold of Washington Ground Squirrels in Oregon is on the remaining undeveloped portion of the state-leased Boeing tract, and the adjacent federally owned Boardman Bombing range.
Threemile Canyon Farms lies just west of the Boardman Bombing Range, where jets frequently scream overhead. Threemile Canyon Farms is a 225-square-mile mega-dairy, where 6,331 cows are milked to make tons of Tillamook cheese, where cow manure is turned into electric power and where enough potatoes are grown to feed 7 million people french fries and hash browns for a year.
Threemile agreed to turn over to the Nature Conservancy management of 23,000 acres of farm wetlands as cover for the endangered Washington Ground Squirrel, birds and plants, and to allow public access along the Columbia River. And Downey, Threemile's 42-year-old business development manager who lives in Boardman, also is working to develop 10,000 acres of dry land as a wind power site. The farm's remaining 19,000 acres will remain fallow, accommodating Portland General Electric Co.'s coal-fired electric plant, Boeing's radar trial site and the beef feedlots of Northwest Beef and J.R. Simplot. None of the farm's former lease holders ---- Boeing, Simplot and Pete Taggares ---- is involved in Threemile Canyon Farms.
Conservation groups negotiated a settlement agreement with agricultural interests in December 2000 that calls for permanent protection of 23,000 acres of the state's Boeing lease lands. The lands, which were subleased to The Nature Conservancy in January 2001 for long-term management, had been proposed for agricultural development. Together with the adjacent Boardman Bombing Range, the state lands are part of one of the few remaining large blocks of native grassland and shrub steppe habitat in the Columbia Basin and a hot-spot for at-risk terrestrial wildlife, including the Washington ground squirrel. The settlement agreement was finalized in March 2001.
This area is in one of the largest grassland preserves in the Northwest, nearly 43 square miles. the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Portland General Electric (PGE), created the Threemile Canyon Farms Multi-Species Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (MSCCAA). Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances contain a strategy for covered lands and activities that demonstrate an applicant's contribution to preclude or remove the need to list a covered species as threatened or endangered under the Act. In return, the applicant is provided with regulatory certainty that they will not be required to provide additional conservation measures should any of the covered species become listed under the ESA in the future.
The MSCCAA will cover approximately 93,000 acres near Boardman, Oregon, including a 23,000-acre wildlife conservation area managed by TNC and property owned by PGE located within the plan boundaries. The primary goal of the MSCCAA is to implement a variety of habitat conservation measures for the following covered species: the Washington ground squirrel (Spermophilus washington), ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis), loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), and the sage sparrow (Amphispiza belli). Conservation measures will focus on restoration and re-establishment of native plant communities including sagebrush and bitterbrush steppe along with grassland species such as needle and thread (Stipa spp.). Other measures include control of exotic species and implementation monitoring. Potential covered activities include: mechanized farming and dairy operations; product transportation; road construction, use and maintenance; site preparation; fertilizer application; fire suppression; prescribed burning and other agricultural or habitat restoration activities.
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