Despite legal challenge, Bend preps for pipeline

October 2, 2012
Despite legal challenge, Bend preps for pipeline

By Dylan J. Darling

Although it faces a challenge in federal court to the Bridge Creek water-pipeline project, the city of Bend continues to prepare for construction of the project in the Cascades foothills west of town.

“As of now we are proceeding with staging equipment and look forward to starting construction," said Justin Finestone, city spokesman.

Construction is set to begin Oct. 10, but the court or the state Land Use Board of Appeals could stop it before then. The city is planning a $20.1 million overhaul of the capture system and delivery pipeline that provides drinking water from Bridge Creek. The pipeline would replace the two current pipelines, installed in the 1920s and 1950s, which Finestone said are crumbling.

“They are in danger of failing and that would be catastrophic," he said.

Central Oregon LandWatch, a Bend-based nonprofit, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Forest Service in District Court in Eugene.

It also filed an appeal of the city's plans in May with the Land Use Board of Appeals.

The group will ask the judge, and has already asked LUBA, to put the project on hold, said Paul Dewey of Central Oregon LandWatch.

“What we are wanting is the city not to initiate construction," he said.

In approving the city's project on national forest land earlier this year, the complaint contends, the Forest Service didn't adequately evaluate the effects the Bridge Creek water project will have on wetlands and fish.

“They didn't use the best available science," Dewey said.

Central Oregon LandWatch brought up the same concerns in an appeal to the Deschutes National Forest, which was denied, and then to the agency's regional office. Late last month, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Kent Connaughton upheld the rejection of the appeal.

The agency established Oct. 10 as the day the city could start construction, following its procedure to give time for a possible lawsuit following an appeal decision.

On Monday, the city of Bend asked to take part, or intervene, in the federal lawsuit, according to court documents.

If construction goes on as planned, Tumalo Falls Road and the Tumalo Falls Trailhead will be closed most of the time, the Forest Service and city announced last week. The 10-mile pipeline runs under Tumalo Falls and Skyliners roads. If work begins Oct. 10, it is scheduled to last until the end of May.

The Forest Service closed the road and trailhead Wednesday to allow contractors to move in equipment and materials.

Forest Service officials initially said trails connecting to the Tumalo Falls Trailhead would be closed as well, but on Monday the agency released a map showing some trails will be open when accessed from other directions.

Hikers will have to turn around at the Tumalo Falls Trailhead rather than link to other trails, said Jean Nelson-Dean, spokeswoman for the forest.

Depending on how winter weather affects the pipeline work, Nelson-Dean said Tumalo Falls Road may be opened at times for winter recreation.

“We will have no need for the closure if they are not doing construction," she said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812,

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An aerial view of a body of water.