September 26, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Bend is scared of questions on Bridge Creek

Sep 26, 2011

September 26, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Bend is scared of questions on Bridge Creek

Bend is scared of questions on Bridge Creek

Published: September 26. 2011 4:00AM PST

The city of Bend seems so deeply dug in defending its $69 million Bridge Creek water project that it’s unwilling to peek out from behind the bunkers.

The city has gone through a two-year public process. It has held hearings, workshops and developed a section on its website. It’s done studies and analyses. Those are all things government can be good at.

What Bend, like any government, is not always good at is listening — especially when there’s evidence the city needs to swerve in a different direction.

On the water project, there are significant financial and environmental questions. If the analysis by the critics of project is correct, the city picked the wrong option and should be adding wells.

The concerns of the critics cannot be dismissed easily. It is informed opposition. It’s made up of a significant collection of business, environmental and legal interests. You can see the substance of some of the concerns at the website

The city’s plan is to upgrade the city’s ability to get water from Bridge Creek. It plans to put in a new pipeline, water treatment and a hydropower facility. It still needs to refine the design and get two federal permits. This week the council authorized the city to spend $4 million on steel pipe for the project.

We’re confused. How much is Bridge Creek going to cost?

The city has not begun any construction and in July the price went up from $58 million to $63 million for the cost of the project without hydro. The revenue from hydro has also bounced around.

We’re confused. If the city was trying to get a critical reexamination of the project’s numbers, why did it ask HDR Engineering Inc., the city’s consultant, to do the analysis? HDR stood to gain millions if retained for the project. Picking HDR undermines the credibility of the conclusions, even without critics teasing out problems in the analysis.

We’re confused. Why is the city so sensitive about what the Deschutes River Conservancy thinks?

Bend City Manager Eric King recently called Tod Heisler, executive director of the DRC. King had heard that an employee at the DRC was working during staff time gathering signatures to drum up opposition. King wanted to know if the DRC had changed its position and if staff were working against Bridge Creek on the clock. The answers are basically no and no.

While the DRC has taken no board position on Bridge Creek, Heisler said it does believe that the city — by sticking with its current plan — may miss an opportunity to do more for the benefit of Tumalo Creek.

We can’t say we blame King for asking questions about what’s going on at the DRC. It also could suggest the city fears more questions.

City staff may be ready to build. Most of the council may be ready. What they have failed to do is make it clear to the public that the city’s choice is the best choice for Bend.

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010

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