Opponents ask judge to delay pipeline

Oct 05, 2012

Bend Bulletin

Opponents ask judge to delay pipeline By Dylan J. Darling

Opponents of the Bridge Creek water pipeline project are asking a federal judge to put construction, expected by the city of Bend to begin Wednesday, on hold.

Central Oregon LandWatch filed a request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction Wednesday with the U.S. District Court in Eugene in a bid to stop the overhaul of the drinking water pipeline.

“The city’s decision-making should be corrected before it does anything on the ground," said Paul Dewey, executive director of the Bend-based nonprofit.

The $20.1 million project would replace two pipes that draw water from Bridge Creek west of town with one pipe. City spokesman Justin Finestone said tree roots are growing into the old pipes, sending pieces into the water flowing through them.

If there is a construction delay it will cost the city $24,000 per day, according to documents filed last week by the city with the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

And if the delay is long enough that the new pipeline doesn’t go in before Deschutes County’s rebuilding of Skyliners Road next spring, it could cost the city an additional $2.9 million to resurface the road.

Stretching 10 miles from the Cascade foothills to town, the pipeline passes under Tumalo and Skyliners roads. The old pipes were installed in the 1920s and 1950s.

Central Oregon LandWatch has filed litigation on several fronts to stop the Bridge Creek project.

In May it sent an appeal to the Land Use Board of Appeals, which is pending. Over the summer it sent an appeal to the U.S. Forest Service, which was rejected twice.

And last week it filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Eugene, questioning Forest Service approval of the pipeline project. Then came Wednesday’s request for the injunction.

In its federal complaint, Central Oregon LandWatch argues that the agency didn’t adequately study what effects the project will have on fish and wetlands.

Deschutes National Forest officials declined to comment Thursday on the request for a temporary restraining order in the federal case, said Jean Nelson-Dean, forest spokeswoman.

“We don’t have a comment because we are just looking at the language of the litigation," she said.

Contractors this week began staging equipment and materials along Tumalo Falls Road.

The road is set to be closed most of the time until May, when the construction is expected to end if it starts this fall.

Despite the lawsuit, appeal and efforts to have the construction held, city officials are confident the work will start when planned, Finestone said. He said they feel the city has a strong legal case.

“This project has been studied many different times in many different ways," he said. “We are still looking forward to starting construction on (Wednesday)."

— Reporter: 541-617-7812,

ddarling@bendbulletin.com

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