Georgia-Pacific will also give the city $10,000 to replace the wooden gates on the dams, which were constructed in 1883 by then-mill owners. The dams were originally designed with earthen construction reinforced by wood. In 1923, the dams were upgraded to wooden structures, which were replaced around 1935 with the current concrete dams. Before the agreement, the city had engineers inspect the dams, which were found to be in good shape, City Administrator Pete Capell said.
The city will hire one full-time employee in the Public Works department to maintain the dams. Since dam maintenance isn’t expected to require a full-time position, that employee will also assist with stormwater maintenance when not working on the dams, Capell said. Georgia-Pacific told the city it cost about $10,000 a year on inspections, minor repairs and other costs for the dam.
Capell said that price could go up as the city looks to automate and modernize part of dam operations. Currently, the gate operations for the dam are located on top of the dam, which is also part of a popular trail at Lacamas Park. While everything is locked, people walking and biking across the bridge have to avoid the gate operations.
Ideally, city officials want to build a floating bridge over Round Lake to connect the two sides of the trail so people don’t have to walk across the dam anymore.
The city has plans for the land, but most of that is depending on securing grant money. In addition to the floating bridge, city officials want to fill in the mill ditch and build a wider trail. Currently, there’s a narrow path along the ditch area with backyards on one side and a chain-link fence protecting people from falling in the murky-watered ditch on the other.
“We want this trail to connect to the city’s trail system,” Capell said. “What could help with grants is we can use the appraised price of the land as a match for grant money.”
The dams and ditch area is the first donation of land from the mill to the city since the recent layoffs. In May, the city announced it was going to lease about 40 parking spots in the lot east of Northeast Adams Street and north of Northeast Sixth Avenue from the mill for about $3,000 a year.
Prior to the donation and lease, records provided by Camas administrators showed that Georgia-Pacific owned 923 acres in Camas scattered across some green spaces, buildings and the dams and ditch. The land was worth $25.1 million, not including building values, which combined for $125.1 million in assessed value.
Capell said discussions about the dams and mill ditch area started two or three years ago, and Ward said Georgia-Pacific decided to donate the land in early 2018. The agreement between the two sides states that the effective date of the transfer was May 1.
The two sides have also discussed some other mill properties, including what Capell called the Camas Business Center, a few large white buildings with a parking lot on Northwest Seventh Avenue. Capell said city officials are looking at whether it would make financial sense to acquire the property and either clean it up or demolish it to make way for something else, and, if so, what that new thing would be.
“We have no intention of making the area a city complex,” Capell said. “If we find a beneficial use for it, we’ll consider it.”