Cracked water pipe repaired

October 12, 2012
Cracked water pipe repaired

Bend Public Works finds break in 80-year-old line

By Scott Hammers

Preliminary work on Bend’s surface water project revealed a crack in a pipe more than 80 years old and used to bring water from Bridge Creek to Bend residents, city officials said Thursday.

The break was discovered a week earlier, city spokesman Justin Firestone said in a news release, during an inspection of the 11-mile pipeline route after crews had shut off the water while preparing to demolish the pipeline intake facility west of Bend. Crews discovered a small sinkhole on a U.S. Forest Service road above the line, then dug down to the pipe to find a 6-foot-long split along a welded seam. The pipe was repaired Monday but is not moving water, city public works director Paul Rheault said.

The breakage comes as the city is enmeshed in a legal battle over the plan to replace the pipe and a 1950s-era pipe running parallel to it as part of a $68.2 million upgrade to its water system. Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken heard from attorneys representing the Deschutes National Forest, the city of Bend and Central Oregon LandWatch, a nonprofit that filed for a preliminary injunction to stop the project.

Judge Aiken asked the parties involved to participate in a settlement conference Thursday.

Finestone said talks are expected to continue today. In the meantime, a restraining order approved by Aiken is blocking the city from proceeding with demolition of the intake facility and other construction.

Rhealt said it’s not clear if the crack in the pipe occurred some time ago, or as a result of turning off the water flowing inside it. Water pressure provides a degree of structural stability to the pipes that they don’t have when they’re turned off, he said.

“These two pipes are well beyond their life cycle," Rhealt said. “It’s suspected that we’re going to see more of this in the future, either when they’re running or when they’re shut down."

The recently repaired pipe will remain off in the near future while the legal issues surrounding the pipeline upgrades play out, Rhealt said. If Aiken finds in favor of the city and lifts the restraining order, the second pipe will be turned off, Bend will switch over to well water and construction of the intake facility will proceed. However, if it appears the restraining order will remain in place, the repaired pipe will be reactivated.

Bend has traditionally used only surface water during the winter months when demand is at its lowest, Rheault said. In the summer, when irrigation boosts water demand roughly fourfold, well water is used to supplement the surface water system.

When running at full capacity, the two existing surface water pipes draw 18.2 cubic feet per second from Bridge Creek, with any water not needed to meet demand dumped back in to Tumalo Creek near the city water treatment facility. The single larger pipe proposed as part of the city project could carry up to 21 cubic feet per second, but the new intake facility would draw only that water needed to meet demand by Bend residents.

− Reporter: 541-383-0387,

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