Six new fire engines; support for canal-piping plans

It was far less divisive – unanimous, in fact – when councilors agreed to spend $2.98 million on six new water-pumping fire engines to replace ones that will be 20 years old at the time of retirement in about a year.

Improvements in the South Dakota-made pumpers range from a tighter turning radius to reduced braking distance, cleaner emissions, fuel efficiency, back-up and side view cameras, LED lights and a heated pump compartment, meaning they won’t have to be drained during the winter. They’ll have air bags, and be quieter, with better water flow, too.

Near the end of the night, councilors took up another controversial issue and voted 7-0 to send a letter to Deschutes County commissioners in support of a Central Oregon Irrigation District land-use request the county takes up at a July 2nd hearing.

Under land-use rules in much of the county, irrigation districts have an "outright" authority to pipe irrigation canals - but not in a part of the Bend outskirts north of town known as the "urban area reserve." COID is seeking to change that, but has run into loud opposition from about 40 homeowners near canals who are fighting the plans.

Capell said the irrigation district wants to pipe a stretch of canal south of the city's Juniper Ridge project, in part to boost the output of a hydroelectric plant built in the area, but also for familiar reasons on the High Desert -- that the old canals lose 40-50 percent of the water they carry to seepage through the rock walls or evaporation.

Capell said he understood why residents were fighting to keep the canals they enjoy seeing behind their properties, much as he and his wife did when they first moved to the area. But he said he'd talked to the assessor, and that claims of reduced property values were unfounded.

Knight brought up the often-discussed option of lining the canals instead. Capell said that would not only reduce the flow needed for the hydroelectric plant but eliminate stock runs in the winter, as the freeze-thaw cycle would cause freeze-thaw cycle problems with the concrete liners. It also would not address the safety issue of more people (such as kids) living near canals in more urban areas.

Ramsay said it's unfortunate for people living in a neighborhood called Canal View Estates, but added, "We have to make a decision about the greater good of the entire community, and piping our canals is going to be critical long-term for the health of our rivers and water conservation."