January 6, 2012 - Bend Bulletin - Bend looking for relief in Bridge Creek water plan

Jan 10, 2012

January 6, 2012 - Bend Bulletin - Bend looking for relief in Bridge Creek water plan

Bend looking for relief in Bridge Creek water plan

City requests more time to build a new treatment facility required by an EPA mandate

By Nick Grube / The Bulletin
Published: January 06. 2012 4:00AM PST

Bend City councilors are hoping the state takes pity on them and gives them the chance to save local ratepayers money by knocking $29 million off a $68.2 million project.

On Wednesday, the council approved sending a letter to the Oregon Health Authority to ask for a delay in building a new treatment plant as part of the city's reconstruction of its Bridge Creek water system.

That project has been heavily criticized for its costs as well as its potential environmental implications. But city officials have continued to forge ahead because it includes replacing two aging pipelines they say are in danger of collapse and a building a treatment plant to meet federal clean water mandates.

In particular, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants cities to treat their drinking water for the potentially deadly microorganism cryptosporidium, a parasite that killed more than 100 people in Milwaukee in 1993.

Bend must treat its water by 2014 to comply with the cryptosporidium mandate, known as the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule, or LT2.

City councilors, however, think they have a chance of proving to the state — which enforces LT2 — that there are extenuating circumstances that might allow them a delay in compliance with the rule.

If successful, it could mean building a $39 million project right away, and adding a treatment plant later, all to the benefit of city ratepayers who are seeing their monthly water bills rise by as much as 40 percent over the next several years.

The council's letter highlights Bend explosive growth over the past two decades, as well as its deep dependence on real estate and tourism that was exploited during the recession, giving the area one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Because Bend's recovery likely will be slow, the letter states: “Substantial water rate increases during this period of slow economic recovery and high unemployment is detrimental to Bend's struggling families.”

The city also states in the letter that because of the age of the pipes that currently send water from Bridge Creek to Bend — one built in the 1920s and one in the 1950s — delayed replacement is not an option. Replacing these pipes will cost $30 million, and compounds the burden on the local ratepayers.

In exchange for a delay, the city promises in its letter that it will continue to design its water project for a treatment plant.

It will also work on additional measures to protect the Bridge Creek watershed. This could includes closing off certain areas, placing additional warning signs and putting up educational kiosks at the nearby Tumalo Falls parking area.

“The City still proposes difficult (rate) increases to build reserves over the course of an agreed upon number of years as part of its compliance schedule,” the letter states. “The hope is by spreading them out, the impact will be less devastating to the ratepayers and citizens of Bend.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160,


Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2011


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