Public Sewer Easements

A public sewer easement grants the City rights to construct, maintain, and access public sewer or storm assets located on private property while allowing and restricting certain activities. The City reviews easement encroachments and quitclaims to ensure they don't interfere with the City's rights.
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What is a Public Sewer Easement?

When City-owned sanitary or storm infrastructure is located on private property, an easement is typically granted to the City of Portland covering this infrastructure. The easements grant certain rights to the City of Portland related to constructing, maintaining, and/or accessing public sewer or storm infrastructure and may limit the property owner’s ability to conduct activities or construct features in the easement area.

Allowed and Restricted Activities

Features or activities in the easement area that interfere with the City’s granted rights are considered encroachments. Per Portland City Code Section 17.32.030 A.2., it is unlawful for any person to encroach into a public sewer easement without first obtaining authorization and approval from Environmental Services via permit, contract, or other legal agreement. Some activities are generally allowed within easements without the City’s review or approval, some of which are listed below, subject to the City’s needs regarding the specific infrastructure.

Generally Allowed Activities and Features

  • Surface paving with asphalt or unreinforced concrete (not including paver systems) 
  • Grading of less than +/- 1’ grade change
  • Standard concrete sidewalks and gutters
  • Landscape planting, excluding trees
  • Temporary construction staging
  • Removable, above-ground structures that don’t impede the City’s ability to access infrastructure

Restricted Activities
The following activities require a City encroachment review:

  • Construction of any structure that projects into the easement area, including below-grade structures and eave overhangs 
  • Excavations
  • Utility installation or replacement 
  • Permanent material storage 
  • Grade changes larger than +/- 1’ 
  • Fences or gates 
  • Tree planting
  • Granting of overlapping easements (e.g. private utility easements)

Encroachment Review 

All restricted activities within easements are subject to mandatory review by Environmental Services under Portland City Code Section 17.32.040 B. to determine the potential for interference with the City’s granted rights. Environmental Services may deny a request to encroach, approve the request, or approve the request with conditions. If the encroachment is approved, the City will require an executed and recorded encroachment agreement from the property owner to satisfy the authorization requirement in Portland City Code Section 17.32.030 A.2. This review can occur during land use review, building permit review, or separate from the development process.

When an encroachment is proposed as part of a development project (land use or building permit) that Environmental Services is assigned to review, the encroachment review will be managed by Environmental Services development staff along with the overall development project.

Please be aware that an encroachment agreement must be finalized before Environmental Services can approve a building permit project that includes encroachments into the easement. For questions, please call Environmental Services Development Planning at 503-823-7761, and indicate option 1.

Granting New Public Sewer Easements 

When City-owned sewer infrastructure is constructed on private property, a sewer easement must be granted to the City. Granting of the easement occurs either through a land division plat, when applicable, or through the associated Public Works Permit or other construction job.

Easement Quitclaims

Occasionally, the City may choose to terminate a public sewer easement. Reasons may include relocation or abandonment of an asset, an incorrectly sized or placed easement, or an easement that no longer contains sewer infrastructure. An easement can be terminated with a legal document known as a quitclaim.

Please be aware that the quitclaim of a public easement must be finalized before Environmental Services can approve a building permit project that proposes to encroach into the easement. A condition of easement quitclaim may include granting a revised easement. If the quitclaim request is associated with private development, please call Development Planning at 503-823-7761, and indicate option 1. If the request is not associated with private development, please email Property Management.

Finding if a Property Has a Public Sewer Easement

To find out if a property has a public sewer easement, go to and search for the property. In the menu with details about the property, scroll down and click “Utilities,” then click “Sewer Assets.” A yellow box with cross-hatching indicates a public sewer easement. Please note that not all easements are mapped and may not always be accurate.

A snapshot of that shows several properties with a sewer easement over it, which is indicated by a yellow box with cross hatches.
On, public sewer easements are indicated by a yellow box with cross hatches.


Systems Development

Environmental Services
phone number503-823-7761Questions about sewer connections, stormwater management, and drainage reserves at the land use or building permit stage.