Central Oregon LandWatch mulls an appeal

Central Oregon LandWatch mulls an appeal
By Tyler Leeds
The Bulletin

December 8, 2014

A federal judge on Friday dismissed objections to a city of Bend water project west of town, but the plaintiffs are still considering whether to appeal to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Central Oregon LandWatch and WaterWatch of Oregon filed a lawsuit last year to stop the city from replacing an aging pipe that takes water from Bridge Creek, a tributary of Tumalo Creek. The plaintiffs argued the U.S. Forest Service did not adequately investigate how the $24 million project will affect the creeks’ water levels and the fish within before issuing a special use permit. The city of Bend said the project is necessary to protect access to the city’s water supply.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled in favor of the city and Forest Service, arguing concerns over the amount of water that would be taken from the creek lacked merit, as the city had earlier agreed to take no more than is currently being removed. Any attempt to increase the amount of water diverted would require further environmental review.

Central Oregon LandWatch Executive Director Paul Dewey wrote in an email this weekend that his organization is “still reviewing the decision” and hasn’t yet decided whether to file an appeal with the 9th Circuit.

Dewey added his organization is “disappointed with the court’s latest decision,” but said, “We remain committed to protecting Tumalo Creek, including increasing flows over Tumalo Falls and through Shevlin Park.”

The lawsuit also addressed a number of technical issues, including the validity of the Forest Service’s analysis and whether climate change was adequately accounted for. Aiken ruled with the city and Forest Service on all aspects of the case.

Despite the lawsuit, work has already been completed on the project. Heidi Lansdowne, the project manager, said in September a portion of the water pipe along Skyliners Road has been fully installed. Because of the ruling, the city will now be allowed to continue upward into the Cascades.