BEND, Ore. - Putting more cold, clear water back in Tumalo Creek was a hot topic at times Wednesday night during a Bend City Council work session on restoration efforts and the fund to pay for them.
The council heard from the Tumalo Creek Restoration Subgroup, which has been working in recent years to prevent water loss and return water back into the creek.
The group has been working to identify and fix pipes that bring water to Bend and surrounding farmers. Their goal is to reduce the amount of water loss in the process. The current goal is to return 20cfs (cubic feet per second) to the waterway.
The meeting got heated when Councilor Mark Capell proposed the city talk with land use groups and try to get them to drop their legal efforts to block the city's controversial water pipeline replacement project.
"I would love to commit our legal fees on this project to restoring Tumalo Creek instead of giving them to attorneys," Capell said. "If you really care about Tumalo Creek, lets all put our money where our mouth is and back off and let us do our project, and we'll start restoring Tumalo Creek."
Councilor Sally Russel took issue with Capell's stance.
"I don't think it's as simple as just saying half a mil(lion dollars) is going to solve this problem, because it's not going to," Russell said.
"No, and I never did say it was," said Capell.
"That's what you certainly implied," said Russell, "so I'm going to push straight back, Councilor Capell."
Russell added that the lawsuit could be the only leverage the groups have in their efforts to protect the creek.
"There are different ways of getting that funding," Russell said. "It is certainly not going to come from people who pull back their lawsuits, which is the only lever they have to get the long-term goal."
By the end of the work session, however, Capell and Russell agreed that it's important to get more water back in Tumalo Creek, though how to pay for it remains unknown. Some grant requests could be an option.
In an issue summary the subgroup gave the council, it concluded that the city's goal of maintaining dual water supplies -- from the creek and groundwater pumping -- "are not mutually exclusive."
They noted some "well-defined projects" to get the creek flow up to a 20 cfs interim target and beyond.
The Tumalo Irrigation District provided a timeline of steps it's taken over the recent years to restore the creek's flow, including piping sections of its Bend and Tumalo feed canals, with more to do.