Editorial: Bend's water debate is a clash of values

Published Feb 2, 2013 at 04:00AM

Bend’s future water needs are on the agenda again for the City Council. On Wednesday, councilors will be discussing the process they will use to have discussions about what to do.

Does that sound like a meandering detour into process over progress? It is, but only so much.

Yes, the council had already settled on a surface water plan. That was the old council, before the November election. Now, there is a new council with three new members. They may have followed the project’s maneuvering. They still have some catching up to do. They have decisions and priorities of their own.

One priority is a drive to compensate for the bogeyman — insufficient public input — often blamed for the project’s spastic twists and time in the courtroom.

We’re not ones to argue for less participatory government, but we don’t believe lack of input was the real story.

The water project decision was never only a choice between options that best guarantee water for the city’s future.

There was also a clash of values. The clash had more than an echo of older Bend debates about growth and how much growth should be forbidden from changing this pretty place where we live.

Already, at least one proposal floating around would fundamentally change the old council’s water plan. It would turn to wells only, instead of the old plan to use dual source — wells and water from Bridge Creek.

The old council — based on advice from city staff and others — decided it needed to act in a way it believed minimized future risks to either water source. It went for dual source. It spread out the city’s bets. That seemed the most sensible approach to us, as well.

Were city officials and the consultants they hired fundamentally wrong about this and more? They have not all packed up and gone away. If they were wrong, how will we be able to trust the new council’s plans?

Councilor Scott Ramsay expressed some skepticism at the last council meeting that “new and astounding information” about the water project would be unearthed. The only significant change may be that there are three new members of the council.

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