Martha O. Pagel

Water Law Attorneys

Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is saddened to announce the passing of Martha Pagel. Those of us at Schwabe will remember her caring and humble demeanor, strong work ethic, and dedication to the legal community.

Martha knew water—from the inside out. She helped clients build effective supply strategies and get agency approvals for water development projects. Martha’s passion for her work earned her the affectionate nickname “water queen.” From small family farms to major public utilities, Martha’s clients relied on her skill and experience to help meet water supply needs.

After graduating from San Diego State University and Willamette University College of Law, Martha served as assistant attorney general with the Oregon Department of Justice’s Natural Resources Section, director of the Oregon Division of State Lands, a senior policy advisor for natural resources for former Governor Barbara Roberts, and director of the Oregon Water Resources Department. She joined Schwabe as a shareholder in 2000. ‎Martha led Schwabe’s Environmental group and served as a mentor for several attorneys over the years.

Martha received the Oregon State Bar’s Environmental and Natural Resources Section Award in honor of her leadership, service, and outstanding contributions in the areas of environmental and natural resources ‎law in the Pacific Northwest in 2015. Martha was consistently listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was recognized by Oregon Super Lawyers for her work in water and natural resources law. This year, Martha was recognized as a Band 1 Environmental lawyer by Chambers USA.

We were truly honored to have known and worked with Martha and to have learned from her. We feel Martha’s loss across our firm and are grateful for her friendship and contributions. Martha loved to dance and she and Vic, her husband, sought out opportunities to dance often. Her passion for family, golf, and serving the natural resources industry and will be remembered fondly.



Solving disputes and moving forward

Because of her background with state agencies and regulatory programs, Martha often works with clients in responding to notices of resource violations and negotiating agreements for moving forward. From wetlands to waterway development to unauthorized water use, Martha helps map a course for achieving compliance.

With an eye on the future, Martha is widely recognized as a leader on water law and natural resource policy, and has a long record of accomplishment in working on policy development through Oregon's legislative process and agency rulemaking. She puts those skills to work for clients when changes are needed to meet future development needs. 

  • Secured and protected water rights for farmers, ranchers, nurseries, vineyards and all types of agricultural water users.
  • Represented more than a dozen small cities and municipal providers on water rights, long-term water supply and efficiency plans.
  • Formed and represented special districts and intergovernmental entities for water development purposes.
  • Secured water rights and developed an administrative structure for managing an aquifer ‎recharge project to promote regional economic development‎.
  • Provided due diligence evaluation and advice on water supply for farms, ranches and other real property transactions involving water rights.
  • Developed and implemented water management strategies for all types of water users, including transfers, permit amendments, conservation plans, certificates and water marketing.
  • Assisted major public utilities in negotiating state water rights as part of relicensing before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
  • Negotiated agreements with the Department of State Lands to settle long-standing ownership disputes over historically filled waterfront lands.
  • Negotiated consent agreements with the Department of State Lands for wetland and removal fill violations.
  • Secured water rights for resort and golf course development and advised on water use efficiency.
  • Arbitrated an interstate compact dispute over water distribution among three states.

Memberships & Awards


  • Western Resources Legal Center, Attorney Advisory Committee, Chair‎
  • Oregon Concrete and Aggregate Producers, Member (2001-present), Environment ‎Committee, Former Chair Board Member
  • Oregon Water Resources Congress, Member
  • American College of Environmental Lawyers, Executive Committee, Member (2016), ‎Region 10 Membership Chair (2013-present), Rapid Response Committee, Co-Chair ‎‎(2016) ‎


  • Oregon State Bar, Natural Resources Section Leadership and Service award (2014)‎
  • American College of Environmental Lawyers, Member (2011-present)‎
  • Portland Business Journal Leadership award
  • Ranked for Environmental Lawyers in Oregon, Chambers USA (2018-2019)
  • Martindale-Hubbell® AV Rating
  • Best Lawyers in America Award, Water Law (2007-2019)
  • Super Lawyers

Resources & Ideas



Oregon State Courts

Washington State Courts

United States District Court of Oregon

Outside The Office