Editorial: Bend water project needs swift, definitive decision

October 20, 2012
Editorial: Bend water project needs swift, definitive decision

The imminent reopening of Tumalo Falls Road may be a short-term victory for local residents’ access to a favorite outdoor area, but it’s a sign of defeat for reasonable public policy and community decision making.

A federal judge is now involved in choices about how Bend will get water in the coming years, having halted construction on the city’s project in response to a challenge by Central Oregon LandWatch.

Before the court ruling, the road had been closed as contractors for the city moved equipment and material into the area, where it plans to replace a pipeline as part of its Bridge Creek water project. LandWatch, which has long opposed the city’s plans, claims the Forest Service permits were issued without sufficient study.

The $20 million pipeline and intake installation is the first step in a $68 million water project designed to preserve the city’s surface water source. Critics say the project is unnecessary and that wells can provide needed water at much less cost and better environmental protection for the watershed.

The water project has been thoroughly debated over recent months, and critics’ concerns given full airing. The city has made numerous adjustments to the plan, but critics aren’t satisfied. Now the decision has been taken out of local hands by those who find compromise an unacceptable concept. Longtime residents may be reminded of long, costly fights that delayed construction and increased costs of the Bend Parkway and the Bill Healy Bridge.

Costs of this delay are unknown, and will likely be less than earlier estimates because construction had not yet started.

A conference is scheduled Monday in federal court in Eugene. Bend needs a swift, definitive decision that preserves the city’s dual-water source and protects this project from death by a thousand court filings.

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An aerial view of a body of water.