Council Discusses Tumalo Creek

August 23, 2013
Council Discusses Tumalo Creek

Tumalo Creek and putting more water back into is a hot topic in Bend right now. On Wednesday, the Bend City Council once again dived into the issue as they received an update on restoration efforts and possible funding ideas to pay for them.

The Tumalo Creek Restoration Subgroup has been working over the last several years to prevent water loss and return more water back to the creek. The group told councilors their goal is to bring 20cfs (cubic feet per second) back to the waterway.

The City of Bend takes some of its water from Tumalo Creek and is hoping this fall to start a $24 million project to install new piping and intake equipment from Bridge Creek to the city’s water storage facility.

The project to run pipe in the existing open irrigation canals could cost anywhere between $12 million and $14 million. The project would help to reach the 20cfs goal set by the Tumalo Irrigation District and the City of Bend. Currently, the Tumalo Irrigation District has a funding commitment from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) for $750,000 that can be used as a match.

The meeting turned into a debate when Councilor Mark Capell questioned how much the city has spent in legal fees on the water project. City Manager Eric King stated last fall, with project delays, it was around $500,000. Capell then stated if it’s the goal to keep more water in the creek, that it would be more beneficial for land use groups to drop their lawsuits and put the money towards restoration.

“I would love to commit our legal fees on this project to restoring Tumalo Creek instead of giving them back to attorneys,” he said. “If you really care about Tumalo Creek, lets all put our money where our mouth is and back off and let us do our project, and we’ll start restoring Tumalo Creek.”

Councilor Sally Russell took issue with Capell’s comments saying now is the time to reach out and engage the various groups to find common ground and meet the goal together. She told Capell she didn’t believe $500,000 would solve the problem.

“No, and I never said it was,” said Capell.

“That’s what you certainly implied,” said Russell. “So, I’m going to push straight back, Councilor Capell.”

Russell stated often a lawsuit is the only tool land use groups have to protect the creek. She again stressed now is the time to create partnerships and develop a plan.

Overall, all the councilors agreed it’s important to put more water back into Tumalo Creek. Mayor Jim Clintion said, “We can all agree we want the city to be a good partner as this is a long term project to conserve water with the Tumalo Irrigation District as well. This is not something we will solve in five minutes at a work session.”

Clinton again stressed he believes the city should have some skin in the game as far as funding is concerned, but what that looks like and at what level still needs to be worked out.

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