Bend water project opponents go back to court
Repeating a move that proved successful a year ago, Central Oregon LandWatch and WaterWatch of Oregon filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court, seeking an injunction to again block the city of Bend's Surface Water Improvement Project.
The two groups had vowed to take that step at U.S. District Court in Eugene last week after the U.S. Forest Service issued a revised permit for the $24 million pipeline replacement project.
Last year, a federal judge blocked work on the project, just as it was set to begin. The city turned back to the Forest Service for a revised special use permit that capped the amount of water the city could take. But foes say the changes are far from enough to head off future water withdrawal increases and degraded habitat along the creek.
In response to the move, city spokesman Justin Finestone said: "The Forest Service went through an extensive, thorough review process and approved the permit for our Bridge Creek pipeline project. It includes a limit to the amount of water the city can use, in addition to stringent environmental monitoring requirements."
"We just received a copy of the complaint and are reviewing it now, but we are confident that the Forest Service process met all legal requirements of the environmental review process," Finestone added.
Paul Dewey, LandWatch executive director, said they expect to file a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction next week.
Here's the rest of the opponents' news release:
Replacing a century-old pipeline "could double the city’s current use of 2 billion gallons of Tumalo Creek water per year to over 4 billion gallons," the group said in its announcement.
Last year, the groups said a judge found the project "will degrade water quality, diminish aesthetic values and harm fish and wildlife in and around the project area."
The city has proposed to temporarily limit its diversion in what the critics alleged is "a transparent attempt to try to limit the Environmental Analysis prepared by the Forest Service."
Local fisherman and LandWatch board member Mike Tripp said, “The revised analysis varies little from last year’s EA that the court rejected. The city has failed to address the issues cited by the court regarding changing climatic conditions, substantive protections for fish, further degradation of critical cold water temperatures and gaps in the scientific analysis.
"Tumalo Creek is a special place, and this project threatens to degrade water quality and fish habitat for many of the same reasons we identified last go round.”
LandWatch Executive Director Paul Dewey contends that the city “wrongly assumes that (it) can take whatever it wants from the stream and that it does not have to determine, let alone maintain, minimum water flows in Tumalo Creek for native trout.”
“Tumalo Creek is in bad shape,” said Dewey. “The creek suffers from low flows and high temperatures. Current temperatures violate state and federal water quality standards, and this project will build a larger capacity pipeline that will only further degrade the system.”
The Forest Service repeatedly states that the project will benefit Tumalo Creek by leaving more water in the upper creek when the demand is lower than 18.2 cubic feet per second (cfs).
“However, that claim is an empty one,” said Dewey, “because the city’s demand for water is predicted to become 18.2 cfs virtually all the time and it is likely to go up from there.”
"Even if it were relevant, the city and the Forest Service have used the same old, stale data that the court rejected last time, instead of current data that show a warming climate and lower steam flows. The Forest Service has on ongoing obligation to adjust or eliminate its permit if aquatic resources are suffering.”
Beginning in 2011, a campaign to stop the proposed project, known as Stop The Drain, fought to keep water in Tumalo Creek and saving millions of taxpayer dollars in the process.
Former Mayor Allan Bruckner claims significant economic consequences to the Surface Water Improvement Project (SWIP) are being foisted onto the city’s ratepayers.
“That’s why seven former mayors, Republicans and Democrats, and developers and conservationists alike joined forces to oppose SWIP. The city continues to throw good money after bad,” said Bruckner.
Mike Groat, a former treasurer of Deschutes County Republicans, said,, “The city’s proposed pipe project is unnecessary and a waste of millions of dollars. It is bad for taxpayers, bad for business, and bad for our community."
“In short,” said Groat, “SWIP is bad for Bend. It’s time for the city to give up on this profligate pipe dream.”
Bend resident Rebecca Snead said, “Like so many others, I moved to Bend with my family because we love the Central Oregon lifestyle. We have amazing outdoor recreation opportunities in areas ranging from mountains to desert.
"Part of living here is appreciating the arid landscape we live in and acting accordingly. Leaving water in the creek is essential to a healthy environment for fish and for people.”
“It’s simple,” said Moey Newbold, a life-long Bend resident who ran last year’s Stop The Drain campaign. “SWIP was a bad idea a year ago. It is still a bad idea today.”
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