Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters 12/14-12/21

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Pedestrian "Traffic"

The recent uptick in car vs. pedestrian accidents is inevitable. Bend has fostered or at least ignored the basic rules and laws involving pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicle traffic.

The basic applicable laws state that pedestrians have the right of way, in a crosswalk, whether it is a "regulated" crosswalk or not. That's pretty much a no-brainer, if there is a human walking into your path, you stop or slow to allow him or her to pass. In most cities, a pedestrian will wait on the curb until it is safe to walk. Not in Bend, however.

In Bend, pedestrians have come to believe that they can walk anywhere, anytime, day or night with impunity and safety. There seems to have developed a sense of entitlement in this city that pedestrians "have the right of way" even if common sense would suggest that they wait a few seconds for a safe passage across a street (crosswalk or not) without causing one or more drivers to unexpectedly stop short.

Downtown, I have seen more than one pedestrian walk into an unprotected crosswalk without looking in any way for traffic. I have also seen traffic stop and wait for someone standing on the corner with no intent to walk anywhere anytime soon. Traffic laws have two functions, to limit dangerous behavior, of course, but also to provide an expectation of the behavior of other drivers and various users of the roadway and crosswalks. People come to rely on those expectations for safe conduct on the roadways. When a pedestrian (or bicyclist) ignores traffic flow and the law and suddenly inserts him or herself into the flow, there can be repercussions many cars back, especially in roundabouts. (I'm told by BPD that has caused an increase in car-on-car roundabout collisions).

In Bend, runners often just continue to run across at a roundabout without breaking stride one bit (Oh, wouldn't want to do that!) while wreaking havoc on the traffic flow in all four directions.

At night, pedestrians and bicyclists in dark clothing without lights are literally invisible to a driver until they step or ride into the path of your lights, especially with oncoming traffic.

I have spoken to Bend PD about this worsening situation and the supervisor to whom I spoke acknowledged that there is a very unique (to Bend in his view) serious, and dangerous problem developing in this regard. He told me it was a public education issue and for them to try and deal with it on an enforcement basis was just not feasible. Remember, when a car and a pedestrian come together, the car always wins, but two lives are severely ruined or affected, maybe forever.

—Doug Meyer

Devastating Loss of Fish

To add to the enlightening Source article, No Fish (12/1), about the recent catastrophic reductions in fish numbers in the Wild & Scenic section of the Crooked River, the 86.4 percent reduction in redband trout and a 45.3 percent reduction of mountain whitefish equates to a combined loss of nearly 72,000 wild game fish. Alarmingly, fish in the largest size categories of both populations suffered the largest decline in numbers. The above losses were not primarily associated with the 2015 drought and were not "a result of conserving water in the reservoir" (as stated in the article). Instead these losses resulted primarily from draining the reservoir to a near historical low reserve of water during a dry year—thus leaving little water for adequate winter flows. This occurred because, in addition to the irrigation water released from the reservoir, every second of every day for several months, 80 cubic feet of water was released during a time when there was not a biological need of this water for fish and everyone knew there was an area-wide drought in progress.

The release of 80 cubic feet of water per second was related to how Bureau of Reclamation staff interpreted language in the Crooked River Water Security Act. If this action had not occurred much more water could have been retained in the reservoir and then subsequently released during the winter when it was sorely needed to benefit fish. Supporters of this legislation believed it was going to benefit fish populations in the river—not result in killing huge numbers of them. The legislation that was approved secures water for irrigation but not for fish. The river below Bowman Dam is managed for sustainable populations of wild fish so hatchery-raised fish cannot be released to accelerate recovery of fish numbers.

It is unfortunate that when the Crooked River legislation was being prepared that fisheries biologists from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife were politically excluded from participating in the process—especially as they are charged with managing fish populations in the river. These biologists have more experience and knowledge about managing fish in the Crooked River Watershed than anyone, and it is clear that these attributes are going to be needed in making future decisions about seasonal water release strategies that will benefit fish. Certainly their pre-legislation water management plan needs to be consulted. As the legislation lacks a sound drought management strategy there clearly is a need to modify the existing legislation to include ODFW fisheries biologists in making future water management decisions that will impact fish populations in the river.

A group of retired biologists I belong to (who did not support the final version of this legislation) believe it was not in the best interest for fish for non-governmental environmental and fisheries organizations to endorse/support legislation that ensures first take water rights to an irrigation district that loses half the water released from the reservoir for irrigation before the water reaches irrigated fields. To reduce this huge loss of water we believe that, instead of the district funding construction of a hydroelectric facility at the dam, the first priority should be financing the piping of leaky water delivery canals to help manage future water releases from the reservoir. Such action would provide irrigators with the same amount of water they receive now, and if the conserved water is released at the best times to benefit fish it would help maintain stable fish populations that could continue to contribute to the sports fishing-related economy associated with the river. Another action that could be taken to better manage water releases is for scientists to use existing historical data to model the relationships between seasonal snow depth, water content, and ambient temperature to predict the volume of runoff water that will enter the reservoir at different times. As the reservoir nears storage capacity this information could reduce the large volume emergency water release events experienced in the past that are associated with gas bubble disease known to kill fish.

After the catastrophic loss of fish associated with the initial year of interpreting and implementing the Crooked river legislation there is now hope that those making water allocation decisions will consult to manage future water releases for the maximum benefit of fish and wildlife—as the legislation intended.

—John R. Anderson

The Twelve Days of Giving

You know how it is, the malls are a mob scene, the roads are a slushy, crusty mess and the holiday fare is taking its toll on your system. As an escape I thought I'd go for a run but even my mind turned on me, telling me that watching Tina Fey impersonating Sara Palin was a much better idea. Bah Humbug!

So, I came up with an idea that just might take care of my all-around crappy Christmas attitude: The Twelve Days of Giving. It's like the 12 days of Christmas and the advent calendar dove into a mosh pit together and this is what came out. I've chosen 12 organizations that I want to bring to people's attention. If anyone feels moved to do so, a donation can be made directly to the organization. I'll put the nonprofit of the day on Facebook with a link and then I'll make a sign that I'll wear as I go out for a daily run. Starting Dec. 13, I will run through downtown Bend with my 12 Days of Giving sign that states who I am running for. Maybe I'll add an "Ask Me about it." We'll see how it goes.

If nothing else, I have created a reason for the season that will motivate me to get off my butt and perhaps motivate others as well. Feel free to piggyback on this idea in your own way and community and if you do, please post so we can all share in the shift from crappy to crazy Christmas attitude! Ha Ha, Ho Ho, Hee Hee.

(Tuesday, Dec. 13 Gina ran for the local Boys and Girls Club)

—Gina Meredith

Gina: We love diving into mosh pits, especially when they're ones that focus on giving back instead of adding to the glut of stuff we have to sell at a garage sale come spring. Plus, after all that running, I figure you won't mind indulging in a coffee from Palate on us.

—Nicole Vulcan, Editor

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