The Deschutes National Forest on Tuesday withdrew a decision made this past summer to issue a special use permit to the city of Bend to replace deteriorating waterlines, but has begun review of a revised version of the controversial project.
The city has submitted a modified proposal for the project to the agency, officials said. The modified project proposal requires a special use permit from the Forest Service and will be analyzed through an environmental assessment.
The city’s modified proposal requires diversions from Tumalo Creek be limited to their current peak allowed use of 18.2 cfs (cubic feet per second).
Design features in the proposed new pipeline and diversion structure allow the city to control water withdrawal. This means when city water demand is less than 18.2 cfs, as it often is now, more water will remain in Tumalo Creek, the forest said.
Public comment and scoping on the modified proposal will begin on December 20, 2012 and end on January 25, 2013. More information can be found at www.fs.fed.us/nepa/project_list.php?forest=110601 or by calling Rod Bonacker, project leader, at 541-383-4761.
Meanwhile, newly elected city councilors were meeting with other city officials Tuesday for a briefing on the project, which has a potential maximum price tag of $68 million, at last estimate, and has drawn criticism from a group that won a restraining order blocking work on the project this fall. New councilors have expressed criticism and concerns during the campaign about proceeding.
Bridge Creek is the City of Bend’s main source of drinking water. Bridge Creek is located 11 miles west of the City at the end of Skyliners Road and USFS Road 4603.
Currently, water from Tumalo Springs, which feed the Middle Fork of Tumalo Creek above Tumalo Falls, is diverted into Bridge Creek, a tributary of Tumalo Creek, and delivered to the City.
The gravity-fed system includes a diversion structure at Tumalo Springs, a canal that carries water from the springs overland to Bridge Creek, a diversion structure and an intake facility on Bridge Creek built in the 1920s, two ten-mile long water pipelines built in the 1920s and 1950s, and storage and disinfection facilities located on property known as the “Outback Site,” part of which is owned by the City, and part is owned by the Forest Service and leased to the City.
The City is proposing to upgrade the Bridge Creek intake facility, including adding fish screens, replace the aging water pipelines with a single water pipeline, and adding new features to control the rate water is diverted from Bridge Creek.
These actions are subject to a Forest Service Special Use Permit process and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because they occur on National Forest lands.