Tribal Government & News

Tribal Council approves demolition contract for Blue Heron site

05.05.2021 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde purchased the former Blue Heron Paper Mill site in Oregon City in August 2019. (Smoke Signals file photo)


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

Tribal Council approved an $847,852 contract with Elder Demolition of Portland during its Wednesday, May 5, meeting that will start the process of rehabilitating the former Blue Heron Paper Mill site in Oregon City.

The Tribe purchased the former paper mill site, which includes 23 acres and more than 50 buildings, in August 2019 for more than $15 million. At that time, Tribal representatives said the Grand Ronde Tribe was committed to spending up to $3 million to clean up the property.

According to the company’s website, Elder Demolition has been in business since 1997 and is a fully licensed and insured Oregon demolition contractor.

“Returning a commercial or industrial site to flat dirt is a complex task, especially when hazardous materials are involved,” the company’s website states. “Precision and experience are necessary. … As a full-service demolition company in Oregon, you can count on us to manage every aspect of your project, from the initial salvaging of building materials to the groundbreaking ceremony.”

The Blue Heron site has significant historical importance to the Grand Ronde Tribe. It was once home to the Charcowah village of the Clowewalla (Willamette band of Tumwaters) and the Kosh-huk-shix village of Clackamas people who were eventually removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation.

Even after removal, Tribal members would walk from the Reservation to the falls to continue to fish.

However, since the arrival of European settlers, the site has been used for myriad industrial purposes, resulting in numerous environmental concerns, such as asbestos and lead-based paints in the buildings to mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls in the soil.

Soon after purchasing the site, the Tribe agreed with the state Department of Environmental Quality to “conduct investigation and remediation utilizing cleanup standards most applicable to the type of development, and in a phased approach over the course of the property’s future redevelopment and reuse.”

In other action, Tribal Council approved the use of two Tribal credit cards by Emergency Operations Coordinator Steve Warden and Emergency Management Assistant Brandy Bishop.

The credit cards will be used for emergency repairs, purchase of items needed quickly, purchase of supplies like batteries and medical items, filling propane tanks and paying for lodging and travel expenses in emergency situations.

Both cards have a $5,000 limit and Finance Officer Chris Leno can authorize temporary increases when necessary.

Tribal Council also approved a resolution making Juneteenth – June 19 – one of the Tribal government’s 14 paid holidays. The day celebrates the emancipation of African-Americans from slavery in the mid-19th century. Tribal Council first granted employees the day off in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Also included in the May 5 Tribal Council packet were approved authorizations to proceed that recommend Vice Chair Chris Mercier as Gov. Kate Brown’s appointment to the Mid-Valley Regional Solutions Advisory Committee and approved a sole source contract with Scholten Construction of Willamina to perform $402,900 in roof repairs to achaf-hammi, the Tribal plankhouse.

To watch the entire meeting, visit the Tribal government’s website at and click on the Government tab and then Videos.