Opposing sides try to settle pipeline conflict

Oct 11, 2012

Bend Bulletin

Opposing sides try to settle pipeline conflict

By Hillary Borrud

Bend officials and opponents of the $20.1 million city water project will be in Eugene today to try to work out their differences in a settlement conference.

Construction was scheduled to begin Wednesday on a new pipeline and other facilities to bring drinking water from the Cascades foothills to Bend. But opponents of the project filed a request last week for a preliminary injunction to halt the project. In U.S. District Court in Eugene Wednesday, Chief District Judge Ann Aiken heard the motion for a preliminary injunction filed by the nonprofit Central Oregon LandWatch. Aiken asked the city and Central Oregon LandWatch to participate in a settlement conference today, said city spokesman Justin Finestone.

City Engineer and Assistant Public Works Director Tom Hickmann said construction is on hold for now.

“At this point, we have told the contractor basically to stand down until at least Monday," Hickmann said. “We don’t know, we might reach something tomorrow and we’ll be able to call them back up. ... We’ll see where we’re at on Monday."

Paul Dewey, executive director of Central Oregon LandWatch, could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening. The nonprofit sought the injunction after filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service in U.S. District Court last month. The water project passes through federal lands, and Central Oregon LandWatch claims the Forest Service failed to adequately study what effects the project will have on fish and wetlands.

A preliminary injunction would force the city to delay construction until Aiken issues a final decision on the case. City Attorney Mary Winters has said it will likely take months for the judge to decide whether the Forest Service adequately reviewed environmental impacts of the project before it issued a permit.

The new water intake facility at Bridge Creek and a 10-mile-long pipeline to Bend that the city plans to build are part of a larger city surface water project that could ultimately cost $68.2 million.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com

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