A day before the U.S. Forest Service announced its approval of Bend's controversial $68 million water system upgrade, critics already were taking on the decision and saying an appeal is likely.
Here are the two news releases -- the Forest Service announcement and the critics' -- in full. For more on this long-running controversy, stay tuned to NewsChannel 21 and KTVZ.COM:
Decision on City of Bend Surface Water Improvement Project
Forest completes environmental analysis on City's proposal
BEND – John Allen, Forest Supervisor for the Deschutes National Forest, has signed a decision to issue a Special Use Permit to the City of Bend for use of Forest Service lands for planned improvements to the city's water facility and replacement of the city's aging water supply pipelines.
The decision follows the Deschutes National Forest's environmental analysis of the City's proposal to install a new waterline within an existing right-of-way on Skyliners Road and to improve the accessibility, efficiency, and safety of the city's existing intake facility.
The new waterline will replace two existing water supply pipelines that are showing signs of deterioration. One pipeline was built in 1926 and the other was built in 1957.
Improvements to the intake facility, also constructed in 1926, will address accessibility, fire protection, energy efficiency, emergency response, flow control, and seismic risk issues as well as obsolete mechanical and electrical systems.
In 2010, the city began the process of applying for the Special Use Permit. The Deschutes National Forest issued an Environmental Assessment on the project on March 13, 2012, which was followed by two 30-day public comment periods.
Thursday's release of Environmental Assessment and Decision Notice is the final stage of the analysis process. A 45-day appeal period on the Decision Notice starts today and ends on August 27, 2012.
Stop the Drain press release
FOREST SERVICE APPROVES BEND'S COSTLY WATER PROJECT; CRITICS, DISAPPOINTED IN DECISION, CONSIDERING APPEAL AND LOOKING TO NOVEMBER
For immediate release, July 11, 2012
On Wednesday, July 11, the Forest Service approved a Special Use permit that gives the City of Bend permission to build the 10-mile pipeline on Forest Service land under Skyliner Road as part of its $68 million Surface Water Improvement Project (SWIP).
Members of the broad coalition of business leaders, environmentalists, and prominent community members who have been advocating for a less expensive and more environmentally-friendly water system for Bend were disappointed with the news.
"The Forest Service failed to do an adequate analysis of the environmental impacts of the project. There should have been an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and a complete range of alternatives. Instead, the Forest Service simply repeated what the City had already decided," said Paul Dewey, Executive Director for Central Oregon LandWatch. "It is likely that LandWatch will appeal the decision." The appeal due date is August 27.
"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. "Tumalo Falls is an iconic Central Oregon landmark, and the SWIP will divert a large portion of it into a pipe for the next 80-100 years. It's not good for the fish, it's not good for the Deschutes River, and it's not good for recreation and tourism."
"Regardless of the Forest Service's decision, the City should be reconsidering this project. There are some viable alternatives that would put a lot less financial strain on Bend residents. To not do so shows that the current City Council is out of touch with its average citizen. High water costs will turn our City brown," said Bill Smith, who has also spoken out against the $68 million Surface Water Improvement Project (SWIP).
Six of the seven current City Councilors have voted for the SWIP, with Jim Clinton dissenting. Four City Council seats are up for election this November, which could change the majority that is currently in favor of the SWIP.