Settlement talks set in Bend water dispute

City, conservation groups will seek agreement

POSTED: 5:54 PM PST January 24, 2014    UPDATED: 5:57 PM PST January 24, 2014 
Bend water project pipes
BEND, Ore. -

During a hearing Thursday at U.S. District Court in Eugene, parties involved in a fight over the future of Bend’s water supply announced that they have agreed to enter settlement talks.

The city had hoped to break ground on the controversial project next week and start replacing the miles of aging pipe that leads out to its intake point on Bridge Creek, a tributary of Tumalo Creek.

But conservation groups Central Oregon Landwatch and WaterWatch of Oregon took the project to court for the second time in just over a year, saying both the city and the U.S. Forest Service failed to adequately assess the project's environmental impact. Revisions made from the original Forest Service permit failed to ease their concerns

Attorneys representing the groups wanted presiding Judge Ann Aiken to issue a preliminary injunction to halt the project, just as she did in October of 2012 in the related case.

However, at Thursday's hearing, Aiken urged the parties to work the matter out on their own.

While attorneys for both sides seemed skeptical at first, all parties eventually agreed to sit down and talk it out at the negotiating table.

Should those talks fail, the parties will meet again in court. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 3rd.