Disputed Bend pipeline project set to start

Ground-breaking, pipe-signing - and area closures

BEND, Ore. - With a years-long court fight partially -- but not fully -- over, the city of Bend formally begins the Bridge Creek pipeline replacement project next week with a pipe-signing and installation ceremony.

The event is set for Thursday, March 13 at 8:30 a.m. at Skyliners Lodge, 16125 Skyliners Road. Attendees will be invited to put their signature on the first piece of pipe before it goes into the ground, likely for a century or so, city officials said Tuesday.

The project replaces two existing parallel pipelines, 12 and 14 inches in diameter, that carry water 10 miles from Bridge Creek to Bend's water chlorination facility.

The pipelines were built in the 1920s and 1950s, and city officials say they are in poor condition and need replacement.

Critics have gone to federal court in efforts to block the work, saying it would harm Tumalo Creek (from which Bridge Creek flows), pull more water from the creek, harm habitat and is not needed, instead urging the city to rely solely on its groundwater supplies.

One such court ruling delayed the project a year and prompted changes to a Forest Service special use permit, but a judge recently rejected a request for a new order to again block the work, being timed to coincide with reconstruction of Skyliners Road west of Bend.

The fight isn't over; foes, including Central Oregon LandWatch, still hope to block other elements of the project at the creek and city water intake facility when arguments on their case are heard this summer. But the pipeline project can proceed in the meantime.

Forest Service officials said Tuesday that beginning this Thursday, construction work associated with the project will temporarily close recreation facilities in the Skyliner area, west of Bend near Tumalo Falls.

The Skyliner Ski Hill parking lot and Skyliner trailhead temporarily will be closed.  The parking lot provides access to Tumalo Creek trail (#25); Tumalo Ridge trail (#25.2); and Skyliner trail (#28).  The parking lot will be used as a turn-around for pipe and gravel trucks working on the waterline replacement project.

Temporary parking and a connecting link to the Tumalo Creek trail will be provided and signed on the south side of Skyliners Road between the parking lot and the entrance road to Skyliners Lodge.

The Skyliner Ski Hill parking lot and Skyliner Trailhead are expected to reopen in April or May as soon as construction moves east past the Skyliner subdivision area, which will allow another turn-around to be used.  The public will be notified when the facilities reopen.

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