Bend officials restate limit on creek withdrawals

December 14, 2013
Bend officials restate limit on creek withdrawals

City councilors say they will work to increase the amount of water in Tumalo Creek

The Bend City Council voted unanimously Friday to approve a resolution to limit its withdrawal of water from Bridge Creek to its current maximum — 18.2 cubic feet per second — and to work toward increasing the amount of water in Tumalo Creek.

The resolution calls for the city to work toward a state target to increase the amount of water flowing through the lowest reach of Tumalo Creek, near the confluence with the Deschutes River, to 32 cubic feet per second. Currently, approximately 10 cubic feet per second of water runs through this section.

The Tumalo and Bridge creeks are connected because the city diverts water from springs on Tumalo Creek, down into Bridge Creek where the city’s pipeline begins.

In the resolution, city councilors stated they hope to increase the amount of water in Tumalo Creek by developing “a match program for funding the restoration of Tumalo Creek.” The City Council also voted unanimously to add the limit on municipal withdrawals from Bridge Creek to city code.

The cap on the amount of water the city takes from Bridge Creek is not new. The resolution restated the city will not take more than 18.2 cubic feet per second of water from Tumalo Creek, which is already a condition of the 20-year permit the U.S. Forest Service issued for the city’s water pipeline and intake replacement project.

Mayor Jim Clinton said city officials and attorneys could use the resolution and ordinance to argue against a temporary injunction on the city water project, which Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking in federal court. If the judge issues an injunction, it would halt the city water project until the judge reaches a decision on the case.

“I think they intend to use it to help clarify their position in the court case,” Clinton said.

Central Oregon LandWatch filed a lawsuit in November, in which the group claims the Forest Service failed to properly evaluate the environmental impacts of the Bridge Creek pipeline and intake project. LandWatch asked a federal judge to revoke the Forest Service permit for the project.

A city matching grant program to restore water to Tumalo Creek would likely involve Tumalo Irrigation District, which is the largest user of creek water. The district took an average of 45,725 acre feet of water annually from Tumalo Creek between 1992 and 2011, according to a city presentation. In comparison, the city took 5,705 acre feet of water from the creek in 2012. The section of creek with the lowest amount of water begins after the Tumalo Irrigation District diversion.

City employees have been meeting with the irrigation district to discuss options to restore water to the creek, but the city has not committed to spend money on the work. The irrigation district began piping its Tumalo Feed Canal in 2008. The canal diverts water directly from Tumalo Creek. Tumalo Irrigation District Assistant Manager Ken Rieck said the canal is roughly one-third completed, and it will cost approximately $12 million to finish.

Rieck said on Friday the irrigation district continues to chip away at the project as cash becomes available. When there has been money available, the district has installed 3,000 to 4,000 feet of pipe annually. However, the district has not worked on the canal for two years because it did not receive needed Bureau of Reclamation grants.

City Councilor Mark Capell said he would like to generate ideas soon about how to raise money to pay for restoration of water to Tumalo Creek. City Council Doug Knight said he agreed.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,

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