Talks to resolve Bend water project flap break off

Injunction still in place; court briefings likely next

Legal battle stops construction on water project

BEND, Ore. - Talks aimed at resolving a lawsuit filed to block the city of Bend's $68 million surface water improvement project have broken off after just one session, meaning an injunction that halted the project stays in place pending future court sessions, both sides said Tuesday.

"We haven't come to any terms," said Paul Dewey, executive director of Central Oregon Landwatch, which sued the U.S. Forest Service over its granting of a permit to begin pipeline replacement work in the Tumalo Creek area..

Both parties say court restrictions prevent them from saying what happened behind closed doors, but the city's spokesman painted a slightly different picture of why the talks have been called off after just one mediation session.

"The city was fully prepared to attend (Friday's) meeting, but received word that it has been canceled," said Justin Finestone.

Dewey said he's not yet sure what will happen next, but likely briefings to the court on both sides' arguments about the project, stalled since a recent ruling granting the foes a preliminary injunction against the pipeline replacement work, just as it was about to begin.

Last Tuesday morning, large snow-covered pipe was seen leaving the Tumalo Falls area, the start of the nearly 10-mile project that a federal judge halted with a preliminary injunction the previous week.

LandWatch sued in September to overturn a Forest Service permit allowing the city to replace miles of aging pipeline and build a water intake facility at Bridge Creek, a tributary of Tumalo Creek. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken stopped all work.

"We don't believe that the Forest Service was correct in letting the city build this project on federal lands and that it violated federal laws," Dewey said.

Dewey said the city and his organization were voluntarily in talks, trying to find common ground. Both sides met Monday, Oct. 22 in a U.S. District Court in Eugene for the first day of those discussions.

"It was really just the first day of discussion," said Dewey. "You really can't say if there was any progress or any success involved."

It was a much different message from the city of Bend.

"Our city manager was there and said that there was progress made," said city spokesman Finestone. "There was a promising start, and they've scheduled another conference for Nov. 2 to continue those settlement discussions."

The city says it is trying to work with the LandWatch organization, but the delay could cost more money.

"There will be an extra cost incurred with the project. It's not inexpensive to do all this work and have to stop," said Finestone. "We don't have final numbers on that. We are working on quantifying ... what it's going to cost us. We should have that within about a week."

The trails and road to Tumalo Falls reopened last Saturday.

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