BEND — Central Oregon LandWatch and WaterWatch of Oregon filed a lawsuit today in the Oregon Federal District Court seeking an injunction to prevent the U.S. Forest Service from authorizing the City of Bend to begin construction of a new pipeline that will allow for greatly increased water withdrawals from Tumalo Creek. The project involves the installation of a large new pipeline. Its operation could double the City’s current use of 2 billion gallons of Tumalo Creek water per year to over 4 billion gallons.

The City first applied for a Forest Service permit in 2012, but work was halted when a U.S. District Judge granted an injunction. The Judge determined that the project “will degrade water quality, diminish aesthetic values and harm fish and wildlife in and around the Project area.” This year, the City sought a permit from the Forest Service to construct a pipeline with the exact same capacity. The City has proposed to temporarily limit its diversion in a transparent attempt to try to limit the Environmental Analysis prepared by the Forest Service.

Local fisherman and LandWatch board member Mike Tripp said, “The revised analysis varies little from last year’s EA that the court rejected. The City has failed to address the issues cited by the court regarding changing climatic conditions, substantive protections for fish, further degradation of critical cold water temperatures and gaps in the scientific analysis. Tumalo Creek is a special place and this project threatens to degrade water quality and fish habitat for many of the same reasons we identified last go round.”

LandWatch Executive Director, Paul Dewey, contends that the City “wrongly assumes that the City can take whatever it wants from the stream and that it does not have to determine, let alone maintain, minimum water flows in Tumalo Creek for native trout.”

“Tumalo Creek is in bad shape,” said Dewey. “The creek suffers from low flows and high temperatures. Current temperatures violate state and federal water quality standards, and this project will build a larger capacity pipeline that will only further degrade the system.”

The Forest Service repeatedly states that the project will benefit Tumalo Creek by leaving more water in the upper Creek when the demand is lower than 18.2 cubic feet per second (cfs). “However, that claim is an empty one,” said Dewey, “because the City’s demand for water is predicted to become 18.2 cfs virtually all the time and it is likely to go up from there.”

“Even if it were relevant, the City and the Forest Service have used the same old, stale data that the Court rejected last time instead of current data that show a warming climate and lower stream flows. The Forest Service has on ongoing obligation to adjust or eliminate its permit if aquatic resources are suffering.”

This project has been controversial from the start. Beginning in 2011, a campaign to stop the proposed project, known as Stop The Drain, garnered substantial public support for keeping water in Tumalo Creek and saving millions of taxpayer dollars in the process. Former Mayor Allan Bruckner notes that there are significant economic consequences to the “Surface Water Improvement Project” (SWIP) that are being foisted onto the City’s ratepayers. “That’s why seven former mayors, Republicans and Democrats, and developers and conservationists alike joined forces to oppose SWIP. The city continues to throw good money after bad,” said Bruckner.

Former Treasurer of Deschutes County Republicans, Mike Groat, added, “The City’s proposed pipe project is unnecessary and a waste of millions of dollars. It is bad for taxpayers, bad for business, and bad for our community. “In short,” said Groat, “SWIP is bad for Bend. It’s time for the city to give up on this profligate pipe dream.”

Bend resident Rebecca Snead, MS Geology, LMT, added, “Like so many others, I moved to Bend with my family because we love the Central Oregon lifestyle. We have amazing outdoor recreation opportunities in areas ranging from mountains to desert. Part of living here is appreciating the arid landscape we live in and acting accordingly. Leaving water in the creek is essential to a healthy environment for fish and for people.”

“It’s simple,” said Moey Newbold, a life-long Bend resident who ran last year’s Stop The Drain campaign. “SWIP was a bad idea a year ago. It is still a bad idea today.”