Water talks continue

Feb 12, 2014

Bend Bulletin

Water talks continue

Judge could rule Friday on Bend’s Bridge Creek project

City of Bend officials plan to continue settlement talks this week with groups that sued to stop its $24 million Bridge Creek water supply project.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken continued a hearing on the lawsuit until Friday afternoon, said Justin Finestone, a city spokesman. Aiken was scheduled to rule Tuesday on a request from Central Oregon LandWatch and WaterWatch of Oregon for a preliminary injunction on the project. The injunction would prevent the city from breaking ground until after Aiken issues a final decision on the lawsuit. Now, the earliest Aiken will rule on the preliminary injunction is Friday.

LandWatch and WaterWatch filed a federal lawsuit in November against the U.S. Forest Service, which issued a permit for the Bridge Creek project. The city of Bend wants to build a new intake facility and pipeline to bring water from Bridge Creek in the Cascades foothills.

Currently, the city uses two pipelines from the 1920s and 1950s to transport water from the creek. In the lawsuit, LandWatch and WaterWatch allege the Forest Service did not adequately consider the environmental impacts of the project before issuing the permit.

The city, Forest Service, LandWatch and WaterWatch have been discussing a possible settlement for the past two weeks.

“I think it’s fair to say, it’s been very intensive,” said city Councilor Sally Russell.

“I think the commitment really on all sides to work through this and find middle ground has been impressive. … Whether or not it will be enough for us to move through this, we’ll only know when we know.”

LandWatch Executive Director Paul Dewey did not return a call for comment on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the city faces a shortening window of time in which it can install a section of the new pipeline under Skyliners Road, which city engineers want to do in order to minimize the environmental impact and use the most structurally sound location. Deschutes County plans to reconstruct Skyliners Road in spring 2015 to meet the terms of a $10 million Federal Highway Administration grant. County Public Works Director Chris Doty has said he will not allow the city to install the pipe under the new road once it has been rebuilt. Construction of the water project was initially scheduled to begin in October, but the city has put it on hold until Aiken rules on LandWatch’s request for the injunction.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com

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