Lawmakers ask EPA for flexibility on water deadline

July 3, 2012
Lawmakers ask EPA for flexibility on water deadline

By Hillary Borrud / The Bulletin
Published: July 03. 2012 4:00AM PST

The city of Bend could get more time to build a $25.4 million water treatment plant, after federal lawmakers asked the Environmental Protection Agency to extend the deadline for municipalities to build the facilities.

The House Appropriations Committee requested more flexibility from the EPA in a report that accompanies a bill to fund the EPA, the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of the Interior and other agencies. The committee approved the language Thursday. The treatment plants are supposed to keep the potentially deadly microorganism cryptosporidium out of drinking water.

City councilors already approved a plan earlier this year to delay construction of the treatment facility and a $3.7 million hydropower facility that is part of the project. As a result, water rates increased 5 percent this month instead of 15 percent.

Bend officials lobbied federal lawmakers, including Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, to push for a change in the federal water treatment rule, and Mayor Jeff Eager said Monday the committee’s message to the EPA is the result of that work.

Eager said Monday that although representatives in the House did not require the EPA to extend the deadline to build water treatment plants, their request for flexibility bears weight because the House Appropriations Committee makes important funding decisions for the EPA and other agencies. The lawmakers’ request helps Bend in a couple of ways.

“First, it allows the city to spread out the costs associated with the surface water improvement project,” Eager said. “If we can get more time, past the October 1, 2014, deadline which is currently in place, then that helps spread out the rate impact on people who are paying rates.”

The delay will also give city officials more time to talk with state and federal agencies about whether the costly projects are necessary, Eager said.

The total cost of the Bridge Creek water project, before the hydropower facility and the treatment facility were delayed, was estimated to be $68.2 million.

The city could begin construction on part of the project this fall. The work would include reconstructing the intake facility near the Tumalo Falls parking lot, and installing a new pipeline to replace two aging ones that carry water along Skyliners Road.

Currently, city staff are waiting for a permit from the Forest Service, said City Engineer and Assistant Public Works Director Tom Hickmann. City staff expected to receive the permit by May, but that deadline has been moved back to August. It could take even longer for the Forest Service to issue the permit if the summer fire season proves to be a busy one, Hickmann said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,

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An aerial view of a body of water.