The Forest Service has given the city of Bend the green light to build a 10-mile pipe from Bridge Creek to the city’s water holding facility west of town, called Outback.
The pipe is just one part of the city’s controversial surface water improvement project, or the SWIP.
The $68 million SWIP calls for:
- Upgrading the piping that leads from Bridge Creek to Outback.
- Building a new water treatment plant at Outback that could treat Bend’s surface water for cryptosporidium, an organism that can cause diarrhea and other health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency has said Bend must treat its surface water for the organism.
- At times, the project has also included a hydropower plant that would capture the energy of the water flowing downhill through the pipe from Bridge Creek to Outback.
OPPONENTS ARE FRUSTRATED
The Forest Service’s decision to grant a special use permit to build the pipe is bad news for opponents of the Bridge Creek improvement project.
Critics have been outspoken about the project, claiming it is too expensive and will have a negative impact on the health of Tumalo Creek
Bridge Creek drains to Tumalo Creek, which in turn drains to the Deschutes River.
Opponents would prefer to see the city use well water only, and allow water from Bridge Creek to flow into the water system unfettered.
“This project will have real long-term impacts to one of our areas most important waterways,” said Mike Tripp, Conservation Chair for the Deschutes Chapter of Trout Unlimited in a press release Wednesday. “It’s not good for the fish, it’s not good for the Deschutes River, and it’s not good for recreation and tourism.”
The director of Central Oregon Landwatch, a local land-use watchdog organization, has said his organization will appeal the Forest Service’s decision to approve the building of the 10-mile pipe.
“The Forest Service failed to do an adequate analysis of the environmental impacts of the project,” said Landwatch Director Paul Dewey, who is also a local attorney.
CITY IS PLEASED
Bend City Manager Eric King said he was pleased with the Forest Service’s decision.
“It was expected,” he said.
The decision took into account a study conducted by the city that looked at the actual impact to the watershed of the SWIP.
“That [study] demonstrated no potential impact to the environment,” said King. “So the permit just validates all the work that was put into that temperature and flow study.”
SWIP COULD INFLUENCE FALL ELECTION
The decision to move forward with the SWIP is up to the Bend City Council, which has repeatedly endorsed the project. Only one councilor, Jim Clinton, continues to oppose it.
Four Bend City Council seats are up for election in November.
To influence the outcome of the election, and possibly kill the project, opponents of the SWIP have created a political action committee called Stop SWIPing Ratepayer Dollars.
As of today, the PAC is reporting a balance of $3,158, according to the Oregon Secretary of State.